The digital tools we have at our disposal now are truly amazing, even if the digital age sometimes leads to some unusual mix-ups.

Like one from this week in 2008, when a misread email led to the creation of a very confusing road sign.


As the BBC reported at the time, the highway department in Swansea wanted to have a sign printed in English AND Welsh that told drivers of large trucks and other heavy vehicles not to use a road near a particular shop.

So they emailed the Welsh translation team to get the Welsh version of “”No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only.”

They got an email back with a sentence in Welsh, and proceeded to put that text on the sign.

The problem was, they hadn’t gotten their sentence translated.

They’d gotten an auto-reply from the translator’s inbox; they just didn’t know it.

So the Welsh part of the sign didn’t tell trucks to go elsewhere.

Instead it said, “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.”

Welsh-speaking residents alternated between being irritated by the sign, and bursting out laughing at it.

The sign was quickly replaced and local authorities apologized, hopefully in both languages.


Today in 1969, a computer science professor at UCLA and one of his students sent a short message to a colleague at Stanford on ARPANET, the predecessor to the modern internet.

They were trying to send the word “login,” but there was a crash and so they only sent the letters L and O.

It got better!

The man responsible for the most infamously bad Welsh road sign translation (Wales Online)

E-mail error ends up on road sign (BBC)

5 milestones that created the internet 50 years after the first network message (The World)

All signs point to our Patreon backers being amazing

Photo by Carl Morris via Flickr/Creative Commons