The language used on control signs fascinates me.

Most signs that aren't commercial are meant to control or restrict behaviour. Only a small percentage are intended simply to convey useful or important information – EMERGENCY EXIT – and even then many of them slip into the language of control, probably out of sheer habit – EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY.

The first two signs are on opposite sides of the same driveway. The sign away from the building is absolute and without exception, but has a more vernacular style that suggests greater age. The second sign, which is very much concerned with authorization, mimics the look of municipal street signage even though it also adds the 'private property' tag as a further claim to authority. Both of these signs are in Helvetica, but the first one almost comes across as friendly when compared to the second.

The third sign, anti-skateboarding and still in Helvetica, is what stopped me to take this little series. I adore the addition of the word "strictly". Are there multiple classes of Prohibited, the same way there are multiple levels of secrecy for government information? Or is this simply a superfluous word, redundant but weighty, designed to impress? And has someone done a study to field-test words for generating compliance, which also trialled 'kindly' and 'sternly'?

"Strictly" prohibiting an activity that is associated with youth has wonderful overtones of a disapproving adult authority figure. This sign is one step away from having the Government of Ontario yelling at kids to get off of its lawn. I doubt that connotation was accidental, even if it wasn't conscious on the part of its creator.

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I have broken the links to hundreds and hundreds of photos, which will take a long time to repair. The workaround is to replace "photo.matthewpiers" in the link URL with "matthewpiers.smugmug". Awkward, but only temporary.

This is happening because I have revamped matthewpiers dot com. More of what I write and photograph will be going there, so check it out as well.

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