It’s all cut up. Uh huh huh.

Today’s signs inadvertently boast avant-garde literary credentials. (Wait, come back!) This quality is, of course, imputed by yours truly; the enjoyment of many signs requires a certain whimsical contrivance.

The strangeness of these summer sale signs, or more properly posters, is easily overlooked. On first glance they appear entirely unremarkable:

Stan Carey - summer sale sign

Yes, the bold colours and unfussy font effectively convey key information: a summer sale is taking place, and some items are available at 40% of their former price – or “up to 60% off”, as it is conventionally expressed. Cynical shoppers ignore the percentage, since it might refer only to a handful of undesirable items; moreover, the bigger the sale, the greater the rip-off the rest of the time. (There’s that cynicism.)

But from an aesthetico-linguistic point of view, the posters are a delight. See how the two key words were presented: “Sum Sale mer”. How wonderful! Had someone in the store’s marketing department been studying Dada or practising cut-up writing? Was the store selling anti-nuance cream?

Probably not. But the possibility brightened an already bright and sunny summer’s day – an especially pleasant thing to think about after three days of almost incessant Irish rain.

3 Responses to It’s all cut up. Uh huh huh.

  1. Fran says:

    I guess they’re relying on the different colours to do the eye work so that you see the words you’re meant to see. It worked for me, until I read your actual blog entry. Now I can’t see it any other way!

  2. Yes, it’s a bit daft, but I guess it’s ok in this instance as the passer-by doesn’t really expect to read anything other than Summer Sale. Mind you, ‘Clo Down sing’ would be jollier.

  3. Stan says:

    Fran: Yes, the poster would be noticeably confusing if the word “Sale” was in white, but when it’s offset in red the message is not garbled at all. The colours do a very good job of helping us reunite Sum + mer in our minds – generally (I suspect) without our noticing we’ve even done so.

    Mise: “Clo down sing” made me laugh. It’s very suggestive of a song – maybe a hoedown. You’re right about expectation: it plays a strong role in what we read (and see, and hear, and feel). It seems a common phenomenon that people read words that aren’t there, because their neural machinery gets carried away. I know I’m not the only one…

    To clarify: my post wasn’t meant to poke fun, but rather to have fun. The poster itself is playful. In one sense it’s a perfectly ordinary design; in another it plays a very impressive trick. I suspect that a great many pairs of eyes glanced at it and processed its information without consciously realising that one word was wholly embedded in another.

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