Looking for emphatic warnings against really bad ideas
February 19, 2016 3:39 PM   Subscribe

I like reading extremely emphatic warnings that something is a really bad idea and you should never do it. Like how the very first line of the manual page for gets() is "Never use this function," or how male-male extension cords are "illegal, dangerous, a fire hazard, and possible [sic] immoral." Does anyone know any other examples to scratch this itch of mine with a plugged-in soldering iron?
posted by J.K. Seazer to Grab Bag (102 answers total) 111 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am a fan of the This Machine Has No Brain Use Your Own sticker I got from a boingboing meetup one time.

It's on my spinning wheel.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:44 PM on February 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


I wish I had a place to post this warning: DO NOT TOUCH. Not only will this kill you, it will hurt the whole time you are dying.
posted by she's not there at 3:50 PM on February 19, 2016 [29 favorites]


For some time now Wikivoyage/Wikitravel has had a variety of strongly worded notices in place of its usual Get In/Get Out info on the page for Somalia. Here's the one I remember:
Somalia is not safe for independent travel or sightseeing due to armed conflict between Government forces and Islamist insurgents, kidnappings, warlording, and piracy. Those visiting for business, research or international aid purposes should consult with their organization and seek expert guidance before planning a trip. If you must go, see War zone safety.
posted by Polycarp at 3:54 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Do not look into laser with remaining eye" is a classic.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2016 [42 favorites]


Derek Lowe's blog category "Things I won't work with" is a lot of fun. He's an industrial chemist involved in research into drugs, and this particular category of his blog is about stuff which is just too damned dangerous to mess with. Stuff like triazides, peroxide peroxides, chlorine triflouride. Some of them are absurdly poisonous, a lot of them are so explosive that they'll go up if you look at them wrong, and some are just insane (like "cubane"). Some of the flouride compounds he talks about can make sand burn.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:58 PM on February 19, 2016 [37 favorites]


I worked in Yellowstone National Park for awhile, and the buffalo there are HUGE, and they wander around a lot. People would want to pet them and take pictures of them, because they seem somewhat docile when they aren't moving. They had this poster (or something very similar) to try and prevent this:
WARNING

MANY VISITORS HAVE BEEN GORED BY BUFFALO

BUFFALO CAN WEIGH 2000 POIUNDS AND CAN SPRING AT 30 MPH, THREE TIMES FASTER THAN YOU CAN RUN

THESE ANIMALS MAY APPEAR TAME BUT ARE WILD, UNPREDICTABLE, AND DANGEROUS

DO NOT APPROACH BUFFALO
And at the bottom there's a picture of someone with a camera being thrown in the air by a buffalo.

Before you would start working there, part of the training was to watch a home video where you can see a buffalo throwing a guy into a tree with just a flick of his head.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:59 PM on February 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


This picture shows a sign at Devil's Pool, Queensland, where someone drowns roughly every three years.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:10 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't remember whether I've seen this in the wild, or quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But a part of a motorcycle repair manual talks about the tiny parts which are are inside the consoles/electrical switches on a motorcycle, many of which are springs, kept under pressure, that will jump out when you take these things apart, and for that reason, this should only be attempted if one has very small hands, the patience of a saint and seas of free time.

Paraphrased from memory, and possibly translated from a Dutch original, but it went a lot like this.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:11 PM on February 19, 2016


It's hard to beat this underwater cave warning sign in terms of spookiness.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:18 PM on February 19, 2016 [33 favorites]


I find this UK warning sign admirably direct.
posted by MsMolly at 4:22 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]






Beware of Invisible Cows at Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
posted by a halcyon day at 4:37 PM on February 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


This is a bit more understated, but for academia, it's pretty emphatic. Similar to the gets() example, the R help page for the pie chart function has the following note:
Pie charts are a very bad way of displaying information. The eye is good at judging linear measures and bad at judging relative areas. A bar chart or dot chart is a preferable way of displaying this type of data.

Cleveland (1985), page 264: “Data that can be shown by pie charts always can be shown by a dot chart. This means that judgements of position along a common scale can be made instead of the less accurate angle judgements.” This statement is based on the empirical investigations of Cleveland and McGill as well as investigations by perceptual psychologists.
Tufte agrees, stating: "Tables are preferable to graphics for many small data sets. A table is nearly always better than a dumb pie chart; the only thing worse than a pie chart is several of them, for then the viewer is asked to compare quantities located in spatial disarray both within and between pies – Given their low data-density and failure to order numbers along a visual dimension, pie charts should never be used." (originally quoted here)
posted by en forme de poire at 4:49 PM on February 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


The Martian (the book) is full of these ("Now, hydrazine is serious death...") and generally a fun read if you like that sort of thing.

I once spotted a hand-hewn "# of snorklers killed" sign above a Kauai beach the guidebook had raved about. There were more than a few tally marks. We stayed out of the water.
posted by teremala at 4:52 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Australia has the best warning signs on earth. Croc warning. Snake warning. Another snake warning. Beach warning. (I know the name sounds like a hoax but it is a real place in the state of South Australia.) Cliff warning.
posted by gingerest at 4:54 PM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ive always enjoyed the redundancy of this one here
posted by juliapangolin at 4:57 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I once spotted a hand-hewn "# of snorklers killed" sign above a Kauai beach the guidebook had raved about. There were more than a few tally marks. We stayed out of the water.

Almost certainly this one at Queen's Bath.
posted by purpleclover at 5:03 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Beware, your wheelchair may speed into the jaws of waiting crocodiles.
posted by Hypatia at 5:10 PM on February 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


Mt. Washington, NH weather warning.

My group started descending from the summit just as this bastard moved in. Clear sky horizon-to-horizon. Fifteen minutes later: full overcast, wind, and sideways snow. We were geared up and experienced, so no *real* trouble.

Prob'ly some luck, too.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:10 PM on February 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


This one seems pretty ad hoc but an angry Canada goose is no joke.
posted by mcmile at 5:28 PM on February 19, 2016 [21 favorites]


This thing came with my new washing machine. Note the instruction at the top.

The problem is that I'm not sure what I'm not supposed to use it for.
posted by lollusc at 5:47 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I just remembered this one and this one, which are some of many warning signs you can find throughout the former bombing range and beautiful island of Vieques.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:28 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


No, not Queen's Bath, but a little hidden beach on the east side of the island. I found a photo.
posted by teremala at 6:29 PM on February 19, 2016


Speaking of weather warnings, the Hurricane Katrina one is a doozy:
URGENT — WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA 1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28, 2005 ...DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED...
The SCP database has some good fictional warnings:
ANY NON-AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ACCESSING THIS FILE WILL BE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATED THROUGH BERRYMAN-LANGFORD MEMETIC KILL AGENT. SCROLLING DOWN WITHOUT PROPER MEMETIC INOCULATION WILL RESULT IN IMMEDIATE CARDIAC ARREST FOLLOWED BY DEATH.
Also in the humorous vein, the classic blinkenlights:
ACHTUNG!
ALLES TURISTEN UND NONTEKNISCHEN LOOKENPEEPERS!
DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN! ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKEN.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:38 PM on February 19, 2016 [16 favorites]




I'm partial to this eloquent moose warning sign.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:11 PM on February 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


I wish I could find a picture of the sign at Anza Borrego, but I was out of film when I got to it a couple years back. I stumbled across it after going back to my car — basically, if you tried to take the wrong way out of the parking lot on foot, it was there:

Warning: Stay on the trail!
If you leave the trail WE WILL NOT SEARCH FOR YOU
YOU WILL DIE!
posted by klangklangston at 7:19 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


From an air show handout:

...Very few things on our flight line are soft to the touch; most things are made of metal and have lots of edges on them. Keep your eyes focused in the direction you’re walking and be aware of low-hanging (and flying!) aircraft components.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:24 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]




My favorite sign is a road sign in Greece that is just '!'.
It means something along the lines of other hazard.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:00 PM on February 19, 2016


One I saw on an overlook over a saltwater crocodile exhibit at the aquarium in Sydney:

DO NOT ENTER
IF THE FALL DOES NOT KILL YOU
THE CROCODILE WILL
posted by Anne Neville at 8:35 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


New Zealand and Australia have soe good ones. I was looking for one we saw that said something like: If you are swept from the rocks we will not retrieve your body.
posted by BoscosMom at 8:52 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've always been fond of these.
posted by Makwa at 8:58 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Swimming or wading into the water can be deadly." - Point Pelee National Park of Canada / "Nager et patauger dans ces eaux peut être mortel." - Parc national du Canada de la Pointe-Pelée
posted by quarterinmyshoe at 9:08 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can't find it now, but I've seen a photo of a sign on the tiger enclosure in a zoo in india that said, 'come closer only if you believe strongly in rebirth.'
posted by Tamanna at 9:12 PM on February 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Too-Ticky: I can't remember whether I've seen this in the wild, or quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

If we're including examples from fiction, Cryptonomicon features a business plan with the following warning:

EXTREMELY SERIOUS WARNING (printed on a separate page, in red letters on a yellow background): Unless you are as smart as Johann Karl Friedrich Gauss, savvy as a half-blind Calcutta bootblack, tough as General William Tecumseh Sherman, rich as the Queen of England, emotionally resilient as a Red Sox fan, and as generally able to take care of yourself as the average nuclear missile submarine commander, you should never have been allowed near this document. Please dispose of it as you would any piece of high-level radioactive waste and then arrange with a qualified surgeon to amputate your arms at the elbows and gouge your eyes from their sockets. This warning is necessary because once, a hundred years ago, a little old lady in Kentucky put a hundred dollars into a dry goods company which went belly-up and only returned her ninety-nine dollars. Ever since then the government has been on our asses. If you ignore this warning, read on at your peril—you are dead certain to lose everything you’ve got and live out your final decades beating back waves of termites in a Mississippi Delta leper colony.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 4:20 AM on February 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


"A Young Man — Gone / Un jeune homme - parti" was one of the warning signs at Point Pelee, mentioned above, the first time I visited there in 2005.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:21 AM on February 20, 2016


The sign in Kauai is at Hanakapiai Beach.
posted by AV at 5:00 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


These are excellent; thank you very much. The "DO NOT TRAVEL INTO WAR ZONES" warning is one I've enjoyed in the past. The tally marks counting people who have drowned, with plenty of room for more, are a really effective warning. And oh man, "Things I Won't Work With" is hilarious. From the most recent post:
But I have to admit, I’d never thought much about the next analog of hydrogen peroxide. Instead of having two oxygens in there, why not three: HOOOH? Indeed, why not? This is a general principle that can be extended to many other similar situations. Instead of being locked in a self-storage unit with two rabid wolverines, why not three? Instead of having two liters of pyridine poured down your trousers, why not three? And so on – it’s a liberating thought.
Just brilliant.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 6:29 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do like the sign at Sullom Voe Oil Terminal (to ram the point home, they keep their fire tenders in the next harbour over, rather than their own one - if it goes boom, it will be a helluva boom). The Ministry of Defence's "Do not touch any military debris it may explode and kill you" is also to the point, as is a warning of tanks crossing and "sudden gunfire". The place is decontaminated now, but Gruinard Island's old warning of anthrax signs were in the same vein.

(Interestingly, in my childhood recollection RAF Flyingdales had warning signs that said that as a prohibited place under the official secrets act trespassers could be shot - but it seems that is over-dramatisation of memory, and it's just arrested and prosecuted)
posted by Vortisaur at 7:42 AM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Many Dogs have died here - Put your dog back in the vehicle" Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Overlook
posted by 445supermag at 7:51 AM on February 20, 2016


This is at the Nakalele Blowhole on Maui: Warning Stay Clear of Blow Hole. You can be Sucked in and Killed. It's not a Waterpark. That's not the only sign of a similar nature around the blowhole, it's just the only one I took a picture of.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:13 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


The warning sign for Box Jellyfish in Queensland is pretty fun. Everyone focuses on the possibility of being stung, but judging from the sign, those things can also rip your legs right the hell off your torso.
posted by logicpunk at 9:13 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


BEACH LOGS KILL
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:17 AM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


...an angry Canada goose is no joke.

And Hell hath no fury like a Mute Swan -- I never paddled a canoe so fast.
posted by y2karl at 9:21 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's not exactly what you asked for, but I think it scratches the same itch: in some Reddit thread I read a bunch of people saying that at their places of work it was absolutely mandatory to park head-out. The message conveyed was "We may have to evacuate this place in seconds, not minutes.".
posted by benito.strauss at 10:11 AM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


I live in New Jersey and I saved this dire warning from the local weather service during the run-up to Hurricane Sandy:

SANDY IS EXPECTED TO SLAM INTO THE NEW JERSEY COAST LATER MONDAY
NIGHT, BRINGING VERY HEAVY RAIN AND DAMAGING WINDS TO THE REGION.
THE STORM IS A LARGE ONE, THEREFORE DO NOT FOCUS ON THE EXACT CENTER
OF THE STORM AS ALL AREAS WILL HAVE SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS.

THIS HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE AN HISTORIC STORM, WITH WIDESPREAD WIND
DAMAGE AND POWER OUTAGES, INLAND AND COASTAL FLOODING, AND MASSIVE
BEACH EROSION. THE COMBINATION OF THE HEAVY RAIN AND PROLONGED WIND
WILL CREATE THE POTENTIAL FOR LONG LASTING POWER OUTAGES AND SERIOUS
FLOODING.

PREPARATIONS SHOULD BE WRAPPING UP AS CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO
WORSEN TONIGHT AND ESPECIALLY ON MONDAY.

SOME IMPORTANT NOTES...

1. IF YOU ARE BEING ASKED TO EVACUATE A COASTAL LOCATION BY STATE
AND LOCAL OFFICIALS, PLEASE DO SO.

2. IF YOU ARE RELUCTANT TO EVACUATE, AND YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO RODE
OUT THE `62 STORM ON THE BARRIER ISLANDS, ASK THEM IF THEY COULD DO
IT AGAIN.


3. IF YOU ARE RELUCTANT, THINK ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONES, THINK ABOUT
THE EMERGENCY RESPONDERS WHO WILL BE UNABLE TO REACH YOU WHEN YOU
MAKE THE PANICKED PHONE CALL TO BE RESCUED, THINK ABOUT THE
RESCUE/RECOVERY TEAMS WHO WILL RESCUE YOU IF YOU ARE INJURED OR
RECOVER YOUR REMAINS IF YOU DO NOT SURVIVE.


4. SANDY IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS STORM. THERE WILL BE MAJOR
PROPERTY DAMAGE, INJURIES ARE PROBABLY UNAVOIDABLE, BUT THE GOAL IS
ZERO FATALITIES.

5. IF YOU THINK THE STORM IS OVER-HYPED AND EXAGGERATED, PLEASE ERR
ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION.

WE WISH EVERYONE IN HARMS WAY ALL THE BEST. STAY SAFE!

I mean, daaaaamn. "Think about how traumatized the rescue workers will be about finding your dead body."
posted by Aquifer at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2016 [24 favorites]


You are leaving the ski resort - YOU CAN DIE - this is your decision

(with skull and crossbones image)
Warning sign pic
STOP - PREVENT YOUR DEATH! Go no further.
More than 300 divers – including open water instructors — have died in caves just like this one.
It can happen to you!
There is nothing in this cave worth dying for!
(with grim reaper image)
Anti-cave diving sign

It is costly to take an injured or dead person out - Avoid unnecessary expense

(from Turrialba Volcano, in Costa Rica)
Warning sign pic


Collection of industrial machine pictogram warning signs - There are many variations on how to illustrate "this will cut off or mangle your hand."
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:44 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]




Ludwig Boltzman, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics. Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously.
Section 1.1 of States of Matter by David L. Goldstein.
posted by BrashTech at 2:59 PM on February 20, 2016 [19 favorites]


I always liked the St. Maarten Airport warning signs -- the beach is right by the airport and you can feel the planes take-off and land. It's cool until the sand gets blasted into your skin so powerfully that you spend the next six days getting it off.
posted by mmoncur at 2:59 PM on February 20, 2016


There's the disclaimer before every episode of South Park.

"All characters and events in this show—even those based on real people—are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated.....poorly. The following program contains coarse language and due to its content it should not be viewed by anyone."
posted by bondcliff at 3:40 PM on February 20, 2016


When I worked in a biochemistry lab, during my onboarding my supervisor said to me, "if you ever smell bitter almonds for no reason, get out of the building immediately." I linked to the MSDS, which has some good warnings; there's a little fridge horror there too, like where it says not to ever give mouth-to-mouth when cyanogen bromide poisoning is suspected (they don't say explicitly, but it's because that could poison the resuscitator).
posted by en forme de poire at 4:05 PM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


The picturesque Peggy's Cove lighthouse and surrounding rocks attract loads of tourists in Nova Scotia, and here's the warning sign posted there (which doesn't stop at least one person a year from disappearing into the brine from the slippery rocks surrounding the lighthouse): Link
posted by andree at 4:43 PM on February 20, 2016


That's excellent, Aquifer. I had forgotten how great extreme weather warnings could be.

What I like about that one is that it takes such unusual measures to impress upon you how serious this hurricane is. Weather service warnings all tend to look the same. All the same capital letters, all the same "HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS" this and "STAY INDOORS" that, so they tend to be ignored. It takes real creative writing to surpass the restrictions and cliches of the medium and craft an effective warning that people will actually pay attention to. Maybe that's what draws me to them.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 5:12 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've always been a fan of the warnings on the large liquid nitrogen tanks that supply buildings: "WARNING. DOES NOT SUPPORT LIFE." No, no it doesn't.

"[I]f you ever smell bitter almonds for no reason, get out of the building immediately."

Our lab works with cyanide with some frequency; wondering how old-school chemists used to work with it, I went through a bunch of the literature on early cyanide research, and I remain fascinated by an aside by one of the early chemists to intentionally work with the stuff:

"Ferner will ich noch eine ausserordentlich empfindliche Geschmacksreaction erwähnen, welche die kleinsten Mengen von Blausäure, die durch den Geruch nicht wahrgenommen werden können, anzeigt. Raucht man nämlich eine Cigarre, so zeigt diese einen äussert charakteristischen, nicht näher definirbaren Geschmack, sobald nur Spuren von Blausäure in der Luft vorhanden sind. Ich habe meinen Schülern deshalb stets anempfohlen, beim Arbeiten mit Blausäure zu rauchen."

(My loose translation: "Further, I also want to mention an extraordinarily sensitive taste-sensation, by which the smallest amounts of cyanide (which cannot be distinguished by smell) can be detected. Namely, if one smokes a cigar, an extremely characteristic but undefinable taste becomes apparent as soon as even traces of cyanide are present in the air. I have as a result always recommended that my students smoke while working with cyanide.")

We've never, to my knowledge, given this a try, since in a modern lab one would have to smoke into the fume hood where the cyanide is; I remain very curious about the extremely characteristic yet undefinable taste.
posted by ubersturm at 5:38 PM on February 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


I knew a guy who, as part of his bachelor's thesis in an invertebrate lab, handled cyanide in DMSO (which is a really stellar vehicle for topical medications because it penetrates skin and membranes without permanent disruption) in a darkroom. YIKES.
posted by gingerest at 6:14 PM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Hawaii is full of creepy signs. Last time I was there, driving along Maui's northwest coast, there were a shit-ton of hand-painted signs at beaches that just said "KAPU." Hell no I ain't going there.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:27 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


use of deadly force is authorized
posted by bukvich at 6:35 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hawaii is full of creepy signs. Last time I was there, driving along Maui's northwest coast, there were a shit-ton of hand-painted signs at beaches that just said "KAPU." Hell no I ain't going there.
Care to explain for this ignorant non - USian?
posted by M. at 7:51 PM on February 20, 2016


My last job had loudspeakers mounted outside, admonishing miles of empty swamp and woods every five minutes: "Warning. This is a restricted area. It is unlawful to enter this area without permission from the [relevant authorities]. The use of deadly force is authorized." The recorded voice put just enough of a drawl on the "authorized" to let you know they meant it.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 8:33 PM on February 20, 2016


Kapu.
posted by mochapickle at 8:51 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


There is (maybe was at this point) an abandoned ammunition depot in Southern Indiana that I discovered entirely by accident when I was riding around on my motorcycle. It's apparently well known in the area, I had never heard of it. I discovered it when I found myself riding on a tree lined that seemed to go on forever, and emerged in something that looked like it was straight out of a post-apocalyptic film - decrepit bunkers and other buildings arranged symmetrically, cracked streets, not another soul in sight. It was an incredibly eerie feeling.

Here's where the signage comes in - On the way in, I saw no signage whatsoever indicating what it was, or if I was allowed to be there - Just some run down (and kind of short) road signs. It wasn't until I was on the way out that I saw a sign that said "No Trespassing - Property of US" and I could have sworn I saw another that said "Trespassers will be shot on sight" - Both from the place I had been riding in for a good 10 minutes or so, and presently on my way out of.

I was able to confirm the "Trespassers will be shot on sight" sign later when I talked to multiple people about it.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:03 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Kapu is today often used as a synonym for "no trespassing," but back before Hawaii's colonization by the West it meant something closer to "forbidden under pain of death." It's related to the word/concept taboo. There's plenty of non-kapu beaches and mountains for haoles on Maui—why risk a citation, a beating or worse?

Anyway, I would say a hand-painted sign posted in the boonies consisting of one word that connotes death is definitely an emphatic warning against a really bad idea.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:59 PM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Elephant seals have teeth and bite. They also smell absolutely horrid, but by the time one sees the sign, one is already aware of this fact.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:03 PM on February 20, 2016


MysticMCJ, as a hooligan undergrad I used to do a lot of therapeutic back-road driving in southwest Virginia, and one day blasted through a long, curved tunnel in third gear to emerge directly facing a locked gate, two armored personnel carriers, and the customary complement of armed guards.

Turns out the tunnel was an unmarked entrance to an armory.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:10 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love this Melbourne, Australia warning to be careful around trams. Part of a series.
posted by Pink Frost at 1:37 AM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


During the 1965 Watts riots the Los Angeles Times printed a photo of this sign, placed at an intersection by either the LAPD or National Guard: Turn Left Or Get Shot.
posted by Homer42 at 7:39 AM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


MysticMCJ: You might have come across the former Jefferson Proving Ground north of Madison, IN. I don't think I ever saw the sign you did, but the whole perimeter fencing has these lovely signs warning of unexploded ordinance...
posted by tss at 11:21 AM on February 21, 2016


I know where the Jefferson Proving ground is, I've been there as well! As well as the abandoned nuclear reactor nearby on marble hill. Those I actually found intentionally.

More on topic - I try to take good photos of warning signs because I love them as well. Unfortunately, they are jumbled in some 30,000 plus photos that I never categorized explicitly for warning signs.

Here's a great seven for one deal that's pretty typical of what you see for a lot of trails in the PNW.

A good friend of mine goes to China on a regular basis, and got some truly incredible signage from an escalator.

And here's a bonus sign that isn't at all a warning
, but as an American who was totally unfamiliar with Dutch, it made me laugh way way too hard when I saw it.

My wife and I have a habit of finding places we shouldn't be entirely by accident. We have some more I just need to find -- I know we found a couple of superfund sites entirely by accident. I'll post as I find good examples.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:55 AM on February 21, 2016


The Soviet Union was pretty good at this. They're public safety posters more than warning notices, but graphic depictions of limbs being crushed and the like.
posted by ambrosen at 2:27 PM on February 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


In fiction, Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) does this in a Series of Unfortunate events, and there's a trope named after it! Not signs, but warnings nonetheless.
posted by papayaninja at 2:31 PM on February 21, 2016


the Dutch also do posters like the Soviets did.

An example.

A whole page.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:11 PM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


This warning sign is my MeFi avatar picture (which I use for some other accounts as well. It's commonly seen on parking lot barriers in Israel as a warning to watch your head. I like it because it gets the point across quite succinctly.
posted by awenner at 6:15 PM on February 21, 2016


The warning label from water heaters is one of my absolute favorites. I have it on a t-shirt I made for an old band I was in.
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:52 PM on February 21, 2016


Those Dutch posters are amazing - but what on earth is the one with the nun warning about?
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:57 PM on February 21, 2016


I saw a water jet cutter with a warning sticker on it. The cutter shoots water in a really thin beam, and can go through either an inch of steel or maybe about a foot of granite.

Here's the warning sticker.

Near Pittsburgh, PA, there's an amusement park, Kennywood. On one of their roller coasters (which dates to the 1930's), this sign is at the top of the first hill. Due to age, I'm assuming the warning was necessary before roller coasters were really a thing?
posted by talldean at 9:25 PM on February 21, 2016


Bad photo sorry but I took this in the Daintree north of Cairns: http://i.imgur.com/qSPuhdt.jpg

We didn't go swimming.
posted by xiw at 10:52 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


@ Chocolate Pickle: UW Madison, where I got my Ph.D., has an amazing week-long safety training course full of amazingly quotable lines about the things that can go wrong when you mess with chemicals.

My favorite stand-alone quote was from a lecture about the hazards of organic synthesis:

"And then there are the unknown hazards. In the 1960s, two graduate students died while brominating norbornadiene.(*) No one knows why. Just don't do it."

(*) JACS 1961, 83, 1516, for those of you with access to ACS publications.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 5:17 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


This badly-burned volcano-warning sign is pretty good.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:19 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Flickr has a group for this kind of thing: Stick figures in peril.
posted by adamrice at 7:58 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


but what on earth is the one with the nun warning about?

This image has explanatory text: "The poster about spitting is quite interesting. In the first half of the 20th century lots of men chewed tobacco. And spitting was part of the chewing. It was unhygienic, I remember as a little boy the amounts of spit flying through the air! The nun is not a nun but a nurse in a twenties uniform. She is in the poster to indicate how unhygienic spitting is. Not a target!"
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2016


Those Soviet and Dutch posters are wonderful.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:15 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Crabtree Falls has this warning:
"DANGER The rocks are covered with a plant growth that makes them extremely slippery. Twenty-three people have died while climbing on these rocks. View the falls from designated areas only."

And also this:
"Danger! Young men and women between 18 and 25 years of age who are bright, intelligent and educated fit the profile of the victims of the siren of Crabtree Falls"

More in this article
posted by slipthought at 12:53 PM on February 22, 2016


Perhaps one should rethink one's visit to Centralia, PA. [Centralia previously.]
posted by Westringia F. at 3:21 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


This sign along a hiking trail in the Dolly Sods wilderness (WV) is perhaps less emphatic than it should be:
Highly explosive
LIVE BOMBS
...
DO NOT TOUCH!

(Need more unexploded ordinance PSAs? Here's a photo of a pamphlet about Dolly Sods; some general UXO safety signage; and a UXO education "clubhouse" for kids complete with poppies at the bottom.)
posted by Westringia F. at 3:55 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


"WARNING: WONDER SHOWZEN CONTAINS OFFENSIVE, DESPICABLE CONTENT THAT IS TOO CONTROVERSIAL AND TOO AWESOME FOR ACTUAL CHILDREN. THE STARK, UGLY, PROFOUND TRUTHS WONDER SHOWZEN EXPOSES MAY BE SOUL-CRUSHING TO THE WEAK OF SPIRIT. IF YOU ALLOW A CHILD TO WATCH THIS SHOW, YOU ARE A BAD PARENT OR GUARDIAN."
posted by MarchHare at 9:20 PM on February 22, 2016


At my father's lab, many decades ago, was a sign: "Do not look down the Neutron Beam Hole!".
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:44 AM on February 23, 2016




"DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKER!" - the Saudi Arabian landing card's welcoming sentence lets travelers know not only the country's attitude to narcotics - but also its respect for English translation.
posted by rongorongo at 5:32 AM on February 24, 2016


Does the classic "Do not parse HTML with regex" Stack Overflow answer count?
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was walking through the woods (a protected nature reserve!) here in MN a couple months ago and there was a big yellow sign nailed to a tree that said "CAUTION: BLIND HUNTERS" with a picture of a dude with a rifle.
posted by miyabo at 11:18 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I have personally seen this amazing sign in Nome, Alaska. (It's around 1000 miles on unmaintained roads from there to the nearest town.)
posted by miyabo at 11:30 AM on February 24, 2016




Today there is no safe place to be in Baltimore.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:24 PM on February 24, 2016


"The McElroy brothers are not experts, and their advice should never be followed. Travis insists he's a sexpert, but if there's a degree on his wall, I haven't seen it. Also, this show isn't for kids, which I mention only so the babies out there will know how cool they are for listening. What's up, you cool baby?"
posted by straight at 11:54 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


In some older PCs for Dummies books there was a section on power supplies. I can't find a reference, but it said something to the effect of
The Power Supply Unit is easy to identify. It is the shiny silver box covered in brightly colored stickers that say, in 14 different languages, "If you open me, I will kill you."
posted by CaseyB at 12:56 PM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think Blinkenlights fits here
posted by rhizome at 2:42 AM on March 1, 2016


SOYUZ ESCAPE CAPSULE RESPONDING INSTRUCTIONS
c. “Soft-Landing” thrusters fire at 3 feet above ground - STAY CLEAR until after touchdown.
d. DO NOT APPROACH capsule for at least 10 minutes after landing - antenna covers will explosively jettison - STAY CLEAR 150 foot radius from capsule (see Slide #1).
e. There is a low level radiation hazard area clearly marked on the bottom of the capsule (SEE Slide #2 for hazards) STAY CLEAR 15 foot radius from bottom of capsule.

NOTE: If necessary, capsule can be rolled to the upright position (from the side position) by 5-6 men. THIS IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS FOR THE RESCUE CREW. Only attempt this in an emergency or if requested by the crew and after notifying the crew of your intentions. STAY CLEAR from capsule for 10 minutes after completion of this operation, one of antennas can deploy automatically.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:43 AM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just found one for you, courtesy of The Bloggess, "If you are reading this, you are in range."
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:19 PM on March 14, 2016


Warning: the jellyfish hate you.

This time it's personal.
posted by she's not there at 4:12 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


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