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Signs of the Times

SOONER OR LATER, retirees to Chiang Mai end up going into some form of business. I am fully aware that when a person reaches the age of sixty in South East Asia they are classified as having died, gone, departed, no longer with us, shuffled off this mortal coil, snuffed it; and in the case of those few who, for some inexplicable reason continue to show signs of life, they are not to be trusted to cross a street unaided, nor permitted to operate a TV remote.

Me? I'm becoming a sign consultant to the commercial classes in this city who daily blow away profits by displaying inane signs at their places of business. We're not alluding to the Dickensian nonsense being currently drummed into our schoolchildren. But everyday, understandable English usage.

Here we are, at the height of the tourist season, scaring off potential customers with such gems as:

  • "Massage Laundry Service"………This conjures up pictures of being thrown, fully clothed, into a washing machine! Can I suggest instead: "Enjoy a relaxing massage, and let us do the washing."
  • "Suits - Man or woman made in 24 hours." (On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested.) Why don't we try: "Tailored suits for ladies or gentlemen. Made in just 24 hours."
  • This one is currently on display behind the delicatessen counter of a major supermarket: "We sample the first slice for you!" (If it's good enough for us, it's good enough for you, mate.) I appreciate that - "Customers are welcome to sample before purchasing," is a bit unwieldy. How about, simply: "Try before you buy."
  • On a sign outside an internet cafeé, the list of services includes - "Hebrew Keyboard". Could this be translated as meaning: "To save your work, press alt F7…but to you, my boy, alt F6 ."
  • "Genuine Chiang Mai Chinese noodles" - -Hold the front page! Beijing reclaims Thailand's second city. Can we consider: "Chinese noodles. The best in Chiang Mai."
  • "Authentic Islamic food - Muslim cooks." I imagine he does, and probably rather well. Could we think about: "Halaal food by top Muslim chefs."
  • "Gone to lunch - back soon." And this hung from the doorknob of a café close to the Night Bazaar. Speaks volumes for their cooking! They could have said - "Open shortly."
  • "Visiting tailor, best cloth only, customer welcome to have fit in hotel room." Presumably, one has to alert the hotel doctor in advance. No, I think you'd be better with: "Quality tailors can bring samples and carry out fittings in the comfort of your hotel."
  • "Full English breakfast thrown in with room rate." Sounds similar to the service at Her Majesty's Prison Belmarsh; oh good, perhaps I'll meet Lord Archer! Sorry, but wrong on both counts. Firstly, your sign should read - "Full English breakfast included in room rate." And secondly, Jeffrey spent but a few weeks in Belmarsh. Since then he did porridge in Wayland, then North Sea Open Prison; before finally being sprung from Hollesley Bay open nick in the summer of 2003, having served two thirds of his four year term for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

There are, I am certain, many more such examples. But if the quaint English used by some establishments here prove comical, spare a thought for your business counterparts in Hong Kong. In the former British colony, where the vast majority of residents possess a good command of the English language, many of them suffer from PASS, or what I call, Poor Advertising Shingle Syndrome. In the case of Hong Kongers, it's often due to their inclusion of the family name on signs, business cards, and office stationary that causes hilarity.

During the more than twenty years in which I had the pleasure of calling Hong Kong "home", my children would often present me with what they found to be uproarious examples in the local Yellow Pages directory:

  • The Hang Fat Brassiere Co.Ltd.
  • Lee Kee Boatbuilders.
  • Wong Kee locksmiths.
  • Ho Lin Rubber Boot Ltd.
  • Wo Man Ho Exclusive Escort Service.

Finally, and I am certain that this, although amusing, is apocryphal: Lai Ying Sod, legal chambers.

So you see, Chiang Mai business persons, by consulting myself, for a small fee of course, you could be attracting, as opposed to merely amusing the passing trade.
I can be contacted through the editors of this fine publication, or directly at my own company - -Bored Sandwich Man at Loose end. com. This is a non-existent website, so just ask the Eds for my mobile number.

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