29 January 2011

Stop - updated

When I saw the image above in a photoessay about the Ukraine, I was immediately reminded of this comment by Bill Bryson, in his book The Mother Tongue; English and how it got that way - 
“In Yugoslavia they speak five languages. In not one of them does the word stop exist, yet every stop sign in the country says just that.” (p. 179)
I wonder if other countries also use the word "Stop" on signs, but not in the native language.

Addendum:  Andrew and Fletcher indicate Portugal and Spain use the word "Stop" on their signs.  And ch.zimmerman found a Wikipedia page on this topic - with interesting photos of Stop signs in many countries.

Reposted from 2011 to add this information about blue stop signs:

These signs arose because Hawaiian traffic law...
"...specifically bars the display of any “sign, signal, marking, or device which purports to be or is an imitation of or resembles an official traffic-control device or railroad sign or signal” by a private person or entity. The law was likely intended to prevent homeowners or the like from putting up stop signs near their property. But the law had a (likely) unintentional consequence: it appeared to regulate large parking lots and private roadways... Enter the blue stop sign. It clearly communicates to drivers that they need to stop, in order to not get into an accident. And it also clearly shows that this isn’t a typical, municipal stop sign."
More information at Now I Know.


  1. Mexico, Venezuela, and Bolivia all use ALTO on their stop signs.

  2. "I wonder if other countries also use the word "Stop" on signs, but not in the native language."

    Wikipedia knows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_sign#Sign_variants

    In Switzerland the word STOP on the sign used to be spelt with two p (STOPP) as this was the standard spelling in written german - Don't know how it was spelt in the french speaking part of Switzerland though. Now it's STOP throughout, has been internationalized in the nineties.

  3. Thank you, ch.zimmermann! That link is perhaps worth a separate post.

  4. I noticed this, I think in Portugal. All the STOP signs were in English; everything else in the local tongue.

    I noticed this about an hour before we left. One tends not to notice when things that ought change don't.

  5. France uses the "stop" sign.

  6. Yes, stop signs in Portugal say STOP. The same is true in Spain.

  7. In Yugoslavia they speak five languages. In not one of them does the word stop exist

    No word for "STOP"? What do they tell naughty kids or irritating relatives? How does a bartender explain not selling beer to a drunk?

    They have words for it, they're just longer than 4 letters, I bet!

  8. Marlys, they obviously have words that mean "stop." When I put the word in italics, it means they don't have the actual word s-t-o-p (using those letters) in any of their languages.

    That's the point of the post.

  9. Germany uses stop instead of halt. That surprised me when I was first stationed there. I think the stop sign with the word stop (and not the local language's word for stop) is the international driving symbol for it, like the circle/slash over the P means no parking and the blue sign with the red square over the white line (looks like a sledgehammer) means dead end.

  10. In Estonia andquite possibly Finland as well the stop signs say STOPP, in Latvia it says STOP and tahe word "stop" is used as an internationalism.

  11. I have heard that French Canadian STOP signs in Quebec use ARESTA or something like that, and not the STOP used in France itself.

  12. In Finland the sign is an identical "STOP" (one p) sign like in the US. If translated, in Finnish it would say "SEIS".

    Here STOP signs are not common. They can only be found in especially dangerous places where e.g. visibility is limited. We don't have 3/4-way stop signs. Instead, one direction marked as obligated to give way to the other designated with a upward triangle.

    A road can also be marked privileged (designated with a this sign ), meaning all crossing roads will be marked with triangles/stop signs.

    If an intersection has no signs, whomever is coming from the right goes first.

  13. The same is true here in Sweden, and we've got the same sign layout.

    We've got a word spelled "stopp" but "stanna" would make more sense in this context.

  14. I'm from (former) Yugoslavia. Can't say it ever occurred to me that the word 'stop' doesn't exist in our language. I guess we don't use 'stop' in everyday conversation, but rather view it as a special-usage word. When I see it, I still read it in my language, so to speak.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...