Submitted by Hairy Scot on February 8, 2011

Signage

The word signage seems to keep popping up more and more and it would seem that in the majority of cases it is being used as the plural of sign and increasingly is perceived as a “clever” alternative to that plural. The OED states:

Chiefly N. Amer. Signs collectively, esp. public signs on facia boards, signposts, etc.; the design and arrangement of these.

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Being a former cop ... the police-speak comes from the wont of writing and talking as if everything is going to be brooked in a courtroom ... since it often is! It's a form of legalese! lol

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Anwulf
"Under urgency!" Horror! Where do they get these phrases? Actually, probably out of the same box the UK police and public medical services got theirs. I heard one saying on television recently "four male persons were ...". And there are examples any time a spokesman has to explain to a camera at the scene of the crime or incident. I believe they are made to speak in this weird way to communicate clearly on crackly radios, like the air force in WW2. This may explain why such a person might say "the bullet exited on the right side" where "came out" would sound much better, but might be misunderstood. The Latin "exit" is clinical and ugly, and the Anglo-Saxon based "came out" or "left" suits informal occasions. "When you leave the hall" is good English, "When you exit the hall" is dreadful. "Exit stage left" is an ancient stage direction. Yes, it is a verb here, but like the air force radio-speak is surely not intended as normal language, any more than is the labelling on a box of goods "this way up" is meant to masquerade as an elegantly constructed English sentence.
Thanks for helping to clear up that thing about the swari.

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@Brus ... You left out that the kiwi bureaucracy has coined the phrase "under urgency".

Farewell as a verb? Hmmmm ... I might be ok with that but the wonted way to make a verb from a noun is with the forefast be- but not always. Then too, we now hear folk talk about "friending" someone on Facebook instead of befriending.

Swari is a Japanese word I remember from Aikido (at least I think that is it ... it's been a long time) but it had nothing to do with an evening party. I have seen swaray for soiree (and swaray is best said with a Southern accent) ... I could see someone using swari if he doesn't know that the "ree" is said as "ray" ... Or maybe he does and is poking fun at it.

Exit IS also a verb. As in exit stage right. A byspel from the OED: The bullet entered her back and exited through her chest.

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The indiscriminate use in New Zealand of "signage" to mean sign or signpost means not that it must be fine because they do it, rather that the poor people of that benighted land have been inveigled, by their own example or maybe the fantasy that they are doing American English or computer-speak, into using the horrible examples you have quoted here. They do a lot a more violence to the English language than this: I have heard "farewell" used as a verb (Today we farewell Mr Smith), "exit" as a verb (please exit the hall) and "swari" as an evening party, which I must surmise is a Maori word, although I suspect it is really ignorant-speak for "soiree". Do not under any circumstances take their mangled version of the language as a model, nor is it even an amusing subject for laughter, as Australian is.

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I think 'signs' has many meanings, but signage is more specific: posters, roadsigns, billboards etc. If my say my job is to make signs I could be talking to deaf people. If I say my job is to make signage you know what I do, even if it sounds awful.

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Are we sure the person who is going to "signage" sacred areas is a native speaker? It strikes me as the sort of mistake a person who is transliterating from another language might make--keep in mind that verb-noun-preposition combination such as "put signs around" are idiomatic.

At any rate, I just don't believe this is a problem; it is too bizarre.

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@porsche

I agree that some of the examples may be correct and/or ambiguous, and it would be quite a chore to go through them all..

The verb is in this article:-
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c...


"Part of our korero [discussion] is that once we get the act through we will signage those places that are wahi tapu [sacred areas], so people know they are wahi tapu and respect them."

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HairyScot, I'm not sure which one you found to be a verb. I couldn't find one. Also, in all fairness, a few of the examples in the link were definitely correct, only a few were definitely incorrect, but most were ambiguous at best. For those, it would be impossible to say they're wrong without getting inside the head of the writer.

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I think you may even find one example there where it appears as a verb!

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Rather than list examples I suggest you take a look at this link:-

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/signage/search/result...

which may serve the purpose.

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Yeah.. I've never heard anyone use the word signage improperly..
My first thought was that you were misreading, as well..

But, I don't want to assume too much. The problem here is that you didn't provide anyone an example!

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"Signage" as a plural for "sign" when we have the perfectly normal word "signs" available strikes me as about as far from clever as one can get--all the way to stupid.

I think, though, that this may be being misread. When some advertising type refers to the "signage" of a retailer, it is not a reference to its signs (in plural) but to its general mass of signs (arrangement, coordination, plan, whatever). Indeed, the "signage" of a given place might consist of only one sign.

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@Bryan M

Yes, my thoughts exactly.

However, "common usage" or as I said "trying to be clever usage" seems to be leading to its use as the plural. This is especially true in NZ, especially in the press.

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I would think that "signage" as opposed to "signs" is meant to reference the arrangement thereof, as the entry states. Stores put "signs" in the window but it's the "signage" that draws you in.

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