Sunday, July 11, 2010

Athlete's Foot ... and other signs

This post is dedicated to signs I've seen in Riyadh - some amusing, some interesting, and some puzzling. My favorite is this shoe store. I can only assume that the owner is blissfully unaware that "athlete's foot" has a different connotation in America.

I like to notice how the Arabic transcriptions closely match the original style of writing with regard to font, color, etc. I thought this Baskin Robins sign was a good example of that. (If you zoom in, perhaps you can see that little striped-shirted body in the window -- Misha getting a cone.)

Another store sign with the same feel in both alphabets:

Perhaps you can recognize this restaurant from the logo? It's Fuddruckers. Arabic omits vowels (except in books for children learning how to read) so the sign actually only uses the sounds for /f/, /d/, /r/, /k/, /r/, and /z/.

The American restaurant Church's Chicken had to be renamed here in Saudi Arabia, due to the word "church" in the name. Voila, it becomes Texas Chicken.

Walking through the mall, I was shocked when I saw this sign. Not by the words, mind you, but simply by the fact that such a sign was in a window display in a Saudi mall. Perhaps the censors didn't know what the word "cleavage" meant?

I even found a store named for me:

My Arabic name in lights:

It is also very interesting to see how businesses deal with the human form in their advertisements. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the women on boxes of swim toys were blacked out with marker. However, women are not the only issue. Islam, especially under certain interpretations like in Saudi Arabia, is often very uncomfortable with the representation of living things, particularly the human form, because it's seen as idolatry. This idea crashes head-first into the modern consumer-centered world of marketing, where visuals are everything. The two very opposing viewpoints have resulted in a multitude of ways to censor or tone down the human form. This applies to men, women, and children. Sometimes, a poster of a human model will be unaltered; other times, the skin (even on a man) will be pixelated or blurred, showing only the clothes in focus.

These photos offer some examples. This rather eerie poster has children with their faces blurred out.

In some cases, pixelating the eyes seems to enough. From afar the photo looks normal. Up close, you realize that the "something strange about this photo" is in the eyes.

In more disturbing cases, the eyes are blurred out entirely.

These posters I am discussing are not wallet-sized inserts in a brochure either. To give you an idea of the massive size of these poster children, take a look at me below, with one of our friends who works with Josh.
If I was the store-owner with a choice of having no photo or this one, the choice would be obvious. I'm not sure how an image like this would draw people into the store.

And if all else fails ...

one can always tape a piece of paper over a sign, like this poster for anti-bacterial soap!


kate said...

As careful as they are about any connotations to sex or women's faces, you would think that Saudi would be more careful about there signs and what they mean to the outside world.

kate said...

Oh i love the Tammy sign. :o)