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Wednesdays carry so much promise in our work-related culture. They’re symbolic of making it halfway through the workweek, of climbing that mountain to the peak and glimpsing Friday, glittering like a jewel only a few days away.

Humor certainly helps, and today’s weird word is a fun one. It’s semiopathy and although it’s vaguely medical-sounding, it really has nothing to do with that field. Semiopathy is the tendency to read humorously inappropriate meanings into signs.  Plain old signs like the kind that fill our world with instructions and information, not portents or omens or the doom-inducing kinds of signs. 

Take the one to the left. Semiopathy suggests that if the poor kid is ready to snap, if he’s reached critical mass after watching one too many episodes of “Barney and Friends” he can toddle over to aisle four to find some relief. Probably not what the sign’s creator had in mind, but it’s amusing nonetheless.

How about this one? Semiopathy has me imagining ladies in high heels and men wearing slick-bottomed dress shoes, all in a tangled heap at the bottom of the ramp because they didn’t “slip carefully,” while those who mastered the skill continue on to work, minus the embarrassing mishaps, scoffing slightly at their fallen comrades.

When we were in Italy last year, we stopped in Florence. It’s a wonderful city, full of rich history, absolutely beautiful architecture, great food…and one strange sign. This one popped up all over the place, and we were at a loss to figure out what it meant. No carrying heavy bars across the street? No lugging long suitcases along the sidewalk? We finally asked someone, who smiled in a very understanding fashion, like she’d been asked that many times before. She said it meant, simply, “no crossing the street at that point.” Hmmmm….I’m still not sure about this one.

So – semiopathy is the tendency of reading humorously inappropriate meanings into signs. We see them randomly, and like a small ray of sunshine and Weird Word Wednesday, they brighten our day in unexpected ways. This last sign really has no semiopathic meaning, but I share it because it’s a hoot anyhow. Have a great week!

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