American tries to figure out what Canadian road signs mean, and fails

Update:

Instead of trying to decipher Canada's confusing road signs during a trip to New Brunswick, the Boston Globe's Ty Burr came up with some creative interpretations of his own. (CBC)
Instead of trying to decipher Canada’s confusing road signs during a trip to New Brunswick, the Boston Globe’s Ty Burr came up with some creative interpretations of his own. (CBC)

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Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr returned home to Massachusetts this week after spending some time “car camping” near the coast of New Brunswick with his wife.

Calling Canada a “gorgeous country,” Burr used the first 43 words of his Thursday column to encourage Globe readers to pay our home and native land a visit themselves (aw shucks).

The remaining 723 words, however, were devoted to analyzing all of the confusing Canadian highway signs he’d passed during his weeklong trip.

Fiddleheads or not fiddleheads

The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr took this signpost for the 512-km River Valley Scenic Drive to mean ‘Roadside genome sequencing booth just ahead.’ (The Boston Globe)

“What began as a minor puzzlement for my wife and me bloomed over the course of a few days into a full-on obsession,” he wrote of the various signs they encountered. “What in the name of Rob Ford were the road signs trying to tell us?”

Burr’s friends and family on Facebook were equally confused by a photo he posted of a green-and-white River Valley Scenic Drive signpost. None of the 2,845 people who weighed in on his post could reportedly identify it.

“The signs of New Brunswick’s highways and byways aren’t exactly done wrong, but they seem to require a cognitive leap of which our American sensibilities, enfeebled by reality TV shows and Katy Perry songs, are incapable,” he explained. “My wife and I found ourselves gazing across a semiotic void, one that necessitated a more elusive process of conversion than miles to kilometres, English to French, or American quarters to Canadian dollars.”

So, instead of trying to decipher the signs, he came up with some creative interpretations of his own:

‘Beaver in utero just ahead’

Actual meaning of the sign: Parks Canada

Beaver in Utero

‘Twerking in a national park is punishable by stoning’

Actual meaning of the sign: Falling rocks

Falling Rocks

‘A man is dreaming about being an egg. Or an egg is dreaming about being a man. Which came first? Philosophical quandaries addressed at the Inter-Province Deconstruction Centre, 2 km’

Actual meaning of the sign: Bed and breakfast nearby

Egg Bed and Breakfast

‘I understand that all available lodgings are booked, but you are welcome to stay in my hayloft for $250 Canadian.’

Actual meaning of the sign: Agri-tourism

Agritourism

‘Only charcoal-filtered cigarettes may be smoked on this road’

Actual meaning of the sign: Pavement ends

Pavement Ends

‘Should you happen to die during your visit to Canada, we will ship your remains home in a decorative urn made by one of our many talented local artisans’

Actual meaning of the sign: Local artisans nearby

Artisans

Burr’s column has been shared widely since it was published, picking up steam among good-humoured Canadians and Americans alike.

“Do you speak Canadian road sign?” is the most-viewed story on The Boston Globe’s site as of Friday afternoon, and Buzzfeed’s story has been viewed nearly 900,000 times in just eight hours.

Of course, as others around the web have pointed out in the past, the U.S. isn’t exactly free of confusing road signs.

For instance, what is this sign found in Portland, Ore., trying to say?

Portland bike sign

Or this one, spotted in Delta Junction, Alaska?

Buffalo sign

Or this?

Road sign U.S.
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