When looking for a public toilet, especially in a hotel, I always look at both icons before deciding which door to enter. Some are obvious, but I’m often unsure until I’ve been able to see, and compare, the two. Some can be downright mystifying: a notable example in Hong Kong is Felix, a poseur’s bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon, the work of pretentious New York designer Philippe Starck. The two doors are alongside, but the letters ‘m’ and ‘f’ are part of the design, so you won’t spot them at first. This seems to me to breach the fundamental rule in all communication: to ensure that the information you wish to convey is clear and clearly understood by the recipient. Form over function.
However, for signs that totally fail to convey the intended message, or that convey an entirely different message, I present a few from my immediate neighbourhood:
A difficult choice.
Stor in the name of the lop.
The next sign is interesting rather than misleading, although I do need to explain why I find it mildly amusing. It is located on the edge of a main road, from where it directs walkers along a narrow footpath across the fields to what at first glance might be the name of a village. But the only village at the end of the path is San Wai, where I live. It is in fact a legacy fossil. The literal translation is ‘horse shit area’. Note that I translated shi as ‘shit’; the Cantonese do have a word for ‘poo’, fan. The name cannot have had a polite origin. As to who kept horses here: it can only have been the British. We overlook a former British army camp, then known as Gallipolli Lines, so I’m assuming that cavalry regiments were once garrisoned there.