Sign of the Times

Quite frequently there are errors in judgment that were wholly unintentional. As a writer I have to be careful how the words are arranged so that all readers can comprehend what I am trying to get across to them. For instance, “For sale, one green ladies bicycle.” Seems simple enough, but the likelihood of finding a green lady customer is very rare. A simple misplacement of the words and it means entirely the wrong thing. I first came across this when I was posted to RAF Wyton in Huntingdonshire, (Now Cambridgeshire.) At the guardroom was an enormous sign, which read, “The intercourse championships will be held in Hangar 2.” At first I wondered what kind of place I had been posted to.
In Singapore the routine orders one day read, “Due to staffing problems tennis rackets will be returned to the Padre and balls to the physical fitness officer.” It’s easily done, it’s just a matter of how you were thinking when you wrote it. When I was at Formby Army base in Lancashire a large sign stood outside the NAFFI which read, “Lower rank volunteers required for target practice.” I suppose they had gotten tired of shooting at officers.
Civilians are just as guilty. There’s a road in East Dereham, “Tomb Lane,” The council thought it fitting to add, “Dead End.” Another one in Norfolk, hanging on the cemetery gates was a sign, which read, “Due to a shortage of labour, graves will be dug by a skeleton staff.” Now that was something I would love to have seen. One that I thought was a great pity, it read, “Young girls required for pickling and bottling.” What a terrible waste of young girls. Another one that could have been worded a little better was in a public toilet in the city of York, it read, “Spitting in the toilets is strictly forbidden.” I figured it must be okay to spit on the floor.