New Brunswick

Fredericton road signs seem lost in translation

Excusez-moi? Many Fredericton drivers can be excused if they are a bit confused by some road construction signs popping up across the city.

City says French text on construction signs was copied from previous versions

A man's hole is what? The translation of some road construction signs in Fredericton is causing residents to scratch their heads. (Daniel McHardie/CBC)


Many Fredericton drivers can be excused if they are getting lost in translation thanks to some road construction signs popping up across the city.

New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province, so it's not unusual to see road signs in both French and English.

But sometimes signs translated directly from English to French can cause unintended — and humorous —problems.

That's what is happening in Fredericton, where signs warning of raised manholes are causing some confusion among drivers. 

The yellow warning sign reads: "Caution: Raised manholes/Attention: Trous d'homme sur éléves."

The City of Fredericton's construction sign, if translated by Google, comes up with: Warning: Manholes on pupils. (Google Translate)
The direct translation suggests that "men's holes are over-elevated."

It gets worse for the city when consulting online translation services. 

Google Translate suggests the city's construction signs say: "Warning: Manholes over pupils."

Three of the signs were spotted on Thursday in a residential area where crews were fixing the road.

Wayne Knorr, a communications officer with the city, said Fredericton's current translation service said the signs should read, "Trous d'homme surélevés." 

It was unclear who originally translated the signs, Knorr said, adding the text was copied from previous signs.

About 20 of these construction signs, which cost $29 each, were purchased this year. 

"Further discussions about fixing the signs will be held at the first of [this] week," he said.

This is not the first time in recent weeks that questions have been raised about signs placed along highways and roads in the province.

Ty Burr, a writer with the Boston Globe, ignited a light-hearted debate after writing a column about what he felt were confusing highway signs that he spotted while on vacation in New Brunswick.


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