Street Signs: Blackboards

Vivian Cook

Though discouraged by many councils, blackboards on A-boards, aka sandwich boards, are put out on pavements/sidewalks in town streets, within the frontage of a property. Usually these are temporary in that they are put out in the day and taken in at night - indeed their very presence may show the premises are open. Some blackboards are also used for vertical display on walls.

Examples here are mostly from streets in Newcastle, Colchester and Blakeney.

 Street blackboard Look!
A. Look

Street Blackboard Pie and Masg

 B. Pie and Mash

Drawing on the categorisations in Cook (2013, 2015):

- blackboards are licensed by the local council’s interpretation of the overall UK regulations expressed in Outdoor advertisements and signs: a guide for advertisers (2007)

- blackboards are owned by the owners of adjacent premises

- blackboards have texts authored by the owners of adjacent premises

Street blackboard sandwich bar 
  C. Sandwich Shop

pub blackboard Trent

D. The Trent

- blackboards have texts written either by amateur employees of the adjacent premises or by professional signwriters

- blackboards are read primarily by pedestrians and potential customers, rather than, say, drivers and passengers

- blackboards have the functions of attracting business [A, B, etc], providing information, particularly for restaurants and bars, as in menus [C] (specials), opening hours [D], and events [E], occasionally, giving directions [F] and warnings.

blackboard street pub wotz on
E. Wotz On?!

Street blackboard mensbar

F. Mensbar

- in terms of materials, blackboards are temporary and assert individuality rather than quality and respectability

- blackboards are either written in chalk [A, C, etc] or in paint [B, H, etc] or both combined [K, M(b)]

- in terms of letter forms, many are all caps [B, D, etc], some are word-initial caps [C], a few are all lower case [H]

street pub blackboard

G. The Playhouse

street blackboard goodlife
H. Goodlife

- the writing on blackboards is invariably handwritten (rather than printed), usually unskilled handwritten forms [B, D, etc], though sometimes training in calligraphy or signwriting shows [C, F, H, etc], indeed full design [I]

street blackboard delicatessen Blakeney

I. Delicatessen

blackboard street hot drink's greengrocer's apostrophe

J. Hot Drinks

- in terms of punctuation, blackboards make liberal use of exclamation marks [K, M(a)] and greengrocers’ apostrophes [J Drink's, Shop's: L Sunday's], plus misc odd decorative symbols (asterisks [K], ampersand [C, K, L, etc], bullet points, Look! [A], smileys [J]); few full stops, though some have stops for list items [C & E].

street Blackboard Shima hair
K. Wow!

Street Blackboard Greengrocer's apostrophe

L. Super Sunday's

- in terms of vocabulary, blackboards use eye-dialect (E Wotz on?!), have frequent spelling mistakes [M (a-e)], and some textese [G 2 Meals 4 ...]


M (a) bargin

street blackboard menu

M (b) usuall

M (c) sousege

M (d) brekfast

M (e) Gherking's

M. A Sample of Spelling Mistakes (see also collections under Spelling Facts and Fancies)

- their syntax is usually Noun Phrases in list structures [C, H, I, etc] with some imperative verbs, Look! [A], Pop in and support ... [J]

- blackboards are sometimes flat boards on walls [D, E, I, etc]

- dramatic use is made of mixtures of colours [E, J & N]

- blackboards are occasionally in other languages [N]

street blackboard bilingual English Chinese

N. Chinese sign

White sandwich boards

Street sign BOGOF Whiteboard

Language of the Streets menu