• This photo was taken in February and the assumption is that post-Christmas diets don't last beyond the end of January.Read more...

  • This sign outside a local church demonstrates the way language is used to catch people's attention, with plays on words perhaps more familiar in marketing slogans applied to religion and attendance at church events such as the evening mass.Read more...

  • Lovin' it

    Traditional grammars will tell you that verbs expressing emotions or attitudes,such as like or love can't be used in progressive aspect. But this familiar Macdonalds advertising slogan has had such a strong influence on the way we speak that up-to-date grammars now say that these verbs are not normally used in progressive aspect. Language changes, whether we like it or not...

    St Benedict's Street, Norwich, Norfolk UK

  • Work-life balance

    The phrase work-life balance became popular in the UK in the 1970s, but the concept  has been around for much longer than you might imagine. Apparently it originated as far back as the mid-1800s, when Labour Day (May Day) was established as a public holiday in Australia, with the labour unions claiming that everyone was entitled to 8 hours' work, 8 hours' rest and 8 hours of recreation - a perfect balance. The sentiment is also expressed in the well-known saying "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", first recorded in the mid-17th century, but probably going back to Saxon times. The arrows here, pointing in opposite directions, remind us forcefully that work and 'life' should be kept strictly separate.

    Fisher's Lane, Norwich, Norfolk UK


  • Playing with the homonym can, this ad outside a fitness centre is designed to catch the attention of potential clients with a 'can of fitness' under a headline insisting that if you want results...


  • Product

    You might think that a product is something that has been manufactured; but the marketization of the service economy since the 1980s has turned all kinds of services (mortgages, insurance policies, bank accounts) – and even Cambridge examinations – into products!

    Location: William H Brown, Bank Plain, Norwich, Norfolk

  • #22 Spoonerism 

    ChishnfipsIt is generally acknowledged in Britain that takeaway food outlets and hairdressers vie for who can use the best (or worst) pun in their names. Where I grew up there was The Chip Monk, The Codfather, and Fryer Tuck's on one side, and Headmasters and A Cut Above on the other. This fish-and-chip shop in Norwich takes a slightly different approach, using a spoonerism for its name. Spoonersims are phrases where the first phonemes in a pair of words are reversed, sometimes intentionally for humour, but often by accident as we tumble over our tongues. They are named after the Reverend Spooner, a college warden at Oxford University in the 19th century, and many more have been attributed to him than can be proven, of which my favourite is "a well-boiled icicle" (well-oiled bicycle). 

    Location: Angel Road, Norwich, Norfolk

  • Doesn't cost the earth#21 - It doesn't cost the earth

    This Norwich drive-through carwash has a slogan which plays on the phrase "to cost the earth". The phrase's idiomatic meaning is 'to be very expensive', but it allows for a play on the word "cost", which can also mean 'have a negative effect on' or 'use up', as in "This project has already cost us lots of time and money", and "the earth" relating to the world, and particularly the environmental wellbeing of the planet. Consequently, the carwash company is simultaneously saying "Our service is inexpensive and environmentally-friendly" - two neat selling points  in a four-word phrase.

    Location: Drayton Road, Norwich, Norfolk, UK

  • Never so good?

    The slogan outside this shop selling musical instruments is playing with a phrase from a 1957 speech by Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. Referring to Britain's postwar economic recovery, what Macmillan actually said was "most of our people have never had it so good". Inevitably, tabloid newspaper headline writers and opposition politicians put this into the second person, and it became "You've never had it so good"!

    Location: St Benedict's Street, Norwich, Norfolk, UK

  • Full communicative potential?

    This kiosk in a Norwich city centre park is a treasure trove of language and meaning.

    The short wall exhorts us to think of everyone as able and capable of doing everything. Everyone is individual and different individuals are attracted to each other. 

    Whatever complexifies our lives, the world is your oyster.

    The long wall develops the idea of autonomy by visually criticising 'social engineering services' bashing people into holes that they do not fit. 

    On the right, just out of shot, the wall reads 'Life is a minefield' with the soldier potentially threatening a partially sighted person.

    "We're here whether you notice us or not", shouts the wall from the bottom left. 

    The dialogue in the middle reads 'Do this, do that! We know best.", "No! I know what I need + want."

    This empassioned visual scream for self-determination and recognition is emphasised by 'The Scream' in the middle of the picture.

    Notice that individuals have contributed to the walls through grafitti, signing their names, adding their own illustrations. One person has even added a text by Noam Chomsky as a fly poster. It is almost as if the closer you look at the wall the deeper it draws you in.

    Introducing the concept of autonomy to learners can be difficult. Getting them to draw a picture of what they think autonomy means to them might be a way to access their preconceptions. Having them list what they think they need and want from your classes is another. After they list them you need to go through a negotiation process with then to proritise main needs of the group and ways of them helping themselves to achieve their wants.


    Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich

    Another text from Chomsky about corporate media can be seen at an entrance to St Stephen's underpass, not far from Chapelfield Gardens. What's interesting here is the changed context, inviting us to read and think about quite dense political ideas by 'publishing' them in the street. (added by Alan Pulverness)