Sign Language

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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These simple silk-screened signs from the late 1930s or early 1940s say a lot about the English language and American mores of the times. In just a few words one can guess what kind of establishment (cafe/bar) it was and even speculate as to the clientele. And questions are asked to: Why are ladies not allowed to sit at the bar? Why is dancing prohibited? What strata of establishment would hang such well branded signs? Why blue?

The quality of the signs are better than average – the lettering is pretty good, stylish and eye-catching. Even a little art moderne novelty makes a showing.

Linguists might do well to study common signs, not just for their pictorial or typographic traits, but also for the ways that the language – in just two or three words – is used so effectively.