When Half a Sign is Better than a Whole One

I’ve been thinking about truncated signs. I’m talking about signs that have letters or words or chunks missing, rendering them a bit, uh, altered, in both appearance and meaning. I like to call them “chopt” signs after Austin’s once legendary Nighthawk Steak House’s mainstay, a chopped steak. I guess the actual word was too long, using 7 letters instead of 5, hence the shortened “chopt.”

sign "NO"

Recently, my favorite chopt sign says “NO.”

Probably supposed to say, “No Trespassing,” but it’s slipped down inside the planter so it just issues this stern, one-word warning. But really, isn’t that closer to what they really want to say anyway?

Can I solicit? NO.
Can I smoke? NO.
Can I park here? NO.
Can I…?
NO!! what part of NO don’t you understand?

I also remember a sign along East Riverside Drive in Austin years ago by a set of warehouse-style storage units. The front half of the sign had fallen away, so now it read, “…RAGE $10/month.” Sounds like a bargain, but did leave me wondering about the details. Little things like: do I get to express my rage for $10/month? Or do I pay that fee so someone else expresses my rage? Certainly, I wouldn’t want to pay $10/month for someone to rage at me. That hardly sounds like fun. Still, it is ingenious, really — others might offer you storage but who else offers straight up rage for such a low fee?

My favorite chopt sign, though, comes from Malcolm Lowry describing the night view from the squatter’s cabin he and his wife, Marjorie, lived along the edge of an idyllic bay on the British Colombia coast. The place is heavenly for the couple, but by night, there is a fiery glow from the oil refinery across the bay flaring gas through the night. The large company sign shines bright, too, but the first letter,“S,” flickers off and on sporadically so that the remaining letters clearly spell out “H-E-L-L,” perhaps revealing a hidden truth.

But one of my favorite signs was a fully intact one on Bolivar Peninsula proudly proclaiming: “ZAM’S — Famous for Nothing!” For years, whenever my family would travel to our relatives’ beach house, I’d see that sign and wonder about the ramshackle building it adorned. My curiosity finally got to me after I hit my rambling days, so I figured I’d stop in for a late lunch one time.

I entered a barely lit bare bones room where a puzzled guy behind the long bar asked,”Can I help you?”
“Kinda hungry — what would you recommend?”
“Well,” he said in a not quite grumble, “I’d recommend the filet mignon (carefully pronounced as FEE-lay men-YON) — only we ain’t got none.”
“Okay,” I said, stumped. “What do you have?”
“Tamales.” I spotted the steamer on the back counter and ordered me up a couple of obviously not too fresh tamales and a beer.

Zam’s — Famous for Nothing!
Boy, do they deserve it. Gotta love honest advertising!

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in observations. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.