Sunday, June 8, 2014

Britain From A to Z: T

Traffic Signs

As I have already discussed, there are a number of words that are different in Britain than in the US even though we basically speak the same language. So, you might expect the same type of differences when it comes to traffic signs. And you would be correct.

Here are a few examples:

US Phrase                  Britain Phrase
Detour                         Diversion
Congestion Ahead       Queues Possible
Yield                            Give Way
Major Highway           Main Carriageway

Notice in the photo above that the road number is M40. M is used to designate main carriageways; what we call interstate highways in the US. Lesser roads are designated with an A or a B as seen in the photo below.

Also notice on the M40 sign above that there is a tenth mile designation. The small white post is also marked with a 66.4. These small tenth mile white posts could usually be seen every tenth mile on the M highways. Here in the US, our highways, including interstates, typically only have mile markers.

Although there are places in the US that have roundabouts, Britain seems to be full of them. Therefore, signs like the one on the right in the photo below are quite common. It shows the circle of the roundabout along with where you will be headed along each leg shooting off from it.

On some of the larger multi-lane roundabouts painted instructions appear on the pavement itself.

A useful feature along some sections of the M highways was the chevrons. There would be a sign instructing drivers to keep 2 chevrons apart. On the road would be painted chevrons. If you kept at least two chevrons back from the car in front of you and you were driving the speed limit, you would know you were a safe distance away in case of an emergency stop. This is much easier than trying to determine if you are one car length per 10 miles per hour of driving speed. However, you can see in the second photo below that not everyone obeys the two chevron rule. They better not get caught. Following closer than two chevrons carries a penalty of 10 years hard labor in a salt mine. Just joking; I think.

In towns with buildings on most corners, the names of the streets were often posted on the side of the buildings. It’s a bit disconcerting if you are not used to it, but quite cost effective. No post is required.

In towns and cities it is common to see signs such as the one below showing a great amount of detail about what is where and in which direction.

Finally, I’d like to mention the use of bilingual signs in Britain. Since English is the main language of England, the signs there are monolingual. However, in Scotland there are a significant number of people who speak Scottish Gaelic. This language is more common in the northern parts of Scotland as you distance yourself from England. The same is true in Wales. Welsh is spoken by a significant number of citizens, this being more common in the north than the south. Here’s a sign welcoming visitors to Fort William, Scotland. Notice the Scottish Gaelic at the top of the sign.

In Wales it was interesting that the signs in the south usually had English first, then Welsh, whereas the signs in the north had Welsh first, then English. Here’s an example. The first photo is what we saw as we entered the capital of Wales, Cardiff, in the south.

Compare that to these photos taken further north in Wales.

I originally thought, “How different it is to live in a place needing bilingual signs.” Then I realized that the US is becoming more and more bilingual, with Spanish on the rise. For instance, here is a Wet Floor sign I saw at our local YMCA. I’m sure the bilingual signs are even more common in the parts of the US bordering Mexico.

Well, that’s all folks. To paraphrase Bill Engvall, “There’s your sign!”

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