Signspotting: Funny signs around the world
Traveling is fun; it can also be funny.
Photo editor and sign collector Doug Lansky has spent more than a decade collecting and collating photos of quirky, hilarious and just plain bizarre signs from around the world.
CNNGo: How did these books come about?
Lansky: I was caught off guard by a sign or two during my travels and snapped a photo. I started keeping an eye out for them and came across a few now and then.
They're a bit like rainbows that way -- you can't really go hunting for them. I started a website in 1999 to collect them and a few years later I had about 10,000 funny signs.
The book is now published by Penguin.
CNNGo: What’s the funniest sign you’ve ever seen?
DL: After seeing about 40,000 signs come in, I have a lot of favorites.
I still really like this one in Hawaii that's near a scenic overlook that says "Bottomless Pit," then on the sign just below it says "30 feet deep."
It's a bit like music -- sort of depends what you're in the mood for.
There are some great absurd ones in this new collection. There's an African medical mural that shows a woman getting an injection from an enormous syringe in her backside. The sign above that image says "happy."
CNNGo: Are all the signs in your book funny or weird?
DL: I think a large part of what makes them fun is that they are, or at least were, intended to be serious. Someone thought that government money [or private sector funds] should be spent to put up a public notice to help people out in some way.
But they seem to get some aspect tragically or comically wrong.
There are signs meant to show drivers how to navigate through a complicated intersection, but the sign ended up more confusing than what it was trying to explain.
Or sometimes it goes the other way. Like one with a symbol for "trees" -- as if you didn't know what those big green things were growing on the side of the road.
CNNGo: Are all these genuine, authorized signs?
DL: I quite frequently get intentionally funny signs and photoshopped ones. I used to just delete them. Now there's a category for those on signspotting.com, but I didn't put them in the book.
If something looks a little too good to be true, I enlarge the image and take a close look at the pixels. It's usually quite easy to tell.
CNNGo: Where did you travel to research this book?
DL: I had a nationally syndicated travel column that took me around the world for five years.
And I was traveling and working my way around the world for two and a half years before that. I've been to about 120 countries.
CNNGo: Did you take all the pictures yourself or are they compiled from various sources?
DL: Except for about 25 that I took, the rest have been sent in from alert travelers from around the world. Most of the photos come from the United States, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
CNNGo: Next plans?
DL: My current project is a break from funny signs. I'm working on an ebook about travel. Sorry, it's top secret... can't say anything more at this time.
CNNGo: Where can we buy the book?
DL: People can find the book online at amazon.com, bn.com and in their favorite independent bookstores. If anyone has any funny signs they've spotted (and photographed), please upload them at signspotting.com.