London Signage 03: m*ta-avoidance

Les mis en garde du métro londonien contre un comportement agressif des voyageurs utilisent la typographie et le remplacement de voyelles par des signes autrement plus habituellement utilisés pour camoufler les jurons.

Since last year, Transport for London has been running a series of posters aiming at improving passengers’ behaviour. To soften the underlying stern injunctions (”Don’t push!”, “Don’t block the closing doors to squeeze in at the last moment!”, “Keep your music volume down!”, “Don’t eat smelly or drippy food on the Tube!”), the designers have added graphical elements to the lettering — playing with fonts, molding the typography into cute little signs: the dripping fat from a portion of fries, the sound waves emanating from an iPod.

Here is the poster that deals with aggression towards Tube employees:

Transport for London anti-aggression signage

This is the first time I’ve seen a semiotic usage of the avoidance characters outside comic strips. By replacing some vowels with an asterisk, an exclamation mark and an at-sign, a layer of meaning is added to the otherwise somewhat cryptic statement “Don’t take it out on our staff”. The smaller print refers to assault, but given the visual effect, I’m sure verbal abuse is covered, too, by this warning.

After last month’s dismal elections, the EU parliament’s (newly renamed) Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality is getting a new member from Britain, UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom. The Guardian tells us a little more about this champion of women’s rights. In his own words:

I want to deal with women’s issues because I just don’t think they clean behind the fridge enough. […]

I am going to promote men’s rights. […]

I am here to represent Yorkshire women, who always have dinner on the table when you get home. […]

No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age. […] I know, because I am a businessman.

The use of you in the third quotation is particularly interesting.

Paul Foot called UKIP “[the Tory party’s] new lunatic and xenophobic fringe”. (I’m not the first blogger to say this, but nevermind: I don’t always agree with Paul Foot, but I much enjoyed reading his Guardian columns and will miss him. He died four days ago, aged 66.) They got 16% of the vote in the UK and 12 seats, but already had to suspend one prospective MEP, who is accused of housing benefit fraud.

Mrs Bloom, the Guardian reports, “is better-known than he is — or at least she was until last night — as one of the country’s leading horse physiotherapists […].” I guess she delegates the cleaning behind the fridge to a maid. Mr Bloom already used the fact that his wife is “half-Polish” to head off accusations of xenophobia directed at his party. Careful, Mr Bloom, greater nationalists than you have been in a similar situation, and it hasn’t changed the course of history.