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May 7, 2008

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DAVID'S DEN                               Signspotting 2



by David Zuchowski

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  • Book review: Signspotting 2
    A book that amuses and entertains with comedic bite
    Review by Dave Zuchowski

    Wanna raise your spirits on a dreary day? Like to chuckle and guffaw? Then Signspotting 2 might be just the thing to lighten your load.

    Compiled by travel writer Doug Lansky, who spent ten years visiting 120 countries, the 160-page, easily portable softback is a good read whether you're commuting by bus or train to work, on an overseas flight or just idling around looking for a humorous diversion.

    In 1992 (his very first year as a globe-hopper), Lansky began collecting photos of funny signs. Since then, he's published some of them in a nationally syndicated newspaper column and enlisted the assistance of nearly 20,000 other sign-spotters. His first compilation in book form came out in 2005, with the sequel, Signspotting 2, hitting bookstores in September 2007.

    In his intro, the author points out that roughly two-thirds of the world's humanity speaks some sort of English as a first, second or even third language. (Interestingly, he informs that China has at least four times as many English-speaking inhabitants as the United Kingdom).

    It's not surprising, then, that the queen's English sometimes comes a cropper in the far-flung regions of the globe and even in its native land, where unsuspecting marketers come up with innocent, but often hilarious semantic gaffs.

    What makes reading this delightful funny bone-tickler a double pleasure is Lansky's habit of adding witty quips underneath the photo of each quirky sign. For instance, to a photo of a sign located in San Carlos, California that reads: "Fang's Acupuncture", he adds the comment: "Clearly someone found their true calling." Under a photo of a mile marker located somewhere in Scotland that reads: “Dull 1/4 Mile”, he captions it: "Wanted: marketing director to help town jump start tourism." For an official roadside sign in Spanish Fork, Utah that proclaims: "No trespassing without permission", he adds, "Only authorized unauthorized visits".

    As a postscript to a sign outside the Townline General Store in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, that advertises "Live Bait Sandwiches" he adds a single word: Yummy!

    Lansky goes beyond giving each participating photographer credit for his or her find by sometimes including heady commentary from the contributor. For instance, signspotter Ken Stern of Brooklyn, New York, writes of an advertisement promoting "Anu's English Academy" that when he took the photo he "wondered if English school proprietor Anu Sharma knew what he had wrought."

    Certainly the owner of a Vietnamese noodle bar in London, England, might want to reconsider the name on his sign that reads "Phat Phuc". Ditto for a store in Port Townsend whose proprietor might want to clarify a signboard that advertises "Fresh Pet Meat" to which the author adds, "What'll it be: filet meow or hot dog?"

    On it goes from zany page to wacky photo until the acknowledgments at the very end in which the author plays his final comedic card. In his last sentence, he acknowledges his wife, thanking her for "each of the 5,000 times I've said ‘Hey, come and check out this one -- it's hilarious,' she actually came over to check it out."

    If you want to laugh a lot, you also might be wise to check and spend some quality time with Lansky's amusing photographic compilation of human foibles and inadvertencies.

    Signspotting 2, ISBN 978 1 74179 182 2 is available at for $9.99. For information on how to submit a photograph of an amusing sign, visit

    Dave Zuchowski has been writing about travel for twenty years and his articles have made the pages of many newspapers and magazines across the country, including AAA, Pathfinders, West Virginia Magazine, Southsider, and Westsylvania. Currently, he is the travel correspondent for the New Castle News, a daily in the Pittsburgh area. In his spare time, he also puts his horticultural interests to good use on his 15-acre farm located near Centerville, Pa.

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