Permitted loads

Road sign in Sunnyvale CA, reported by Elizabeth Daingerfield:

Permitted loads not allowed on Mathilda Ave.

(Side irrelevant point of local interest: Sunnyvale also has a Maude Ave. and a Mary Ave.)

The interpretation that comes most easily — ‘loads that are permitted, i.e. allowed, are not allowed on Mathilda Ave.’ — can’t be right, because it’s flatly contradictory. The intended sense must involve a verbing of the noun permit. But still the interpretation that comes most easily — ‘loads that are permitted, i.e., have permits, are not allowed on Mathilda Ave.’ — seems unsatisfactory, since  what are those permits for, if not for permission to use the roads? But in fact this is pretty much how the sign is to be read. You have to know what the permits in question are for.

There’s a photo of another variant (No permitted trucks allowed) from a different location, posted 2/20/08 on a blog as an instance of a big fail. On 4/2/09 commenter Mike Fletcher explained:

The “permitted trucks” refers to trucks that are not normally legal (oversize, overweight or carrying especially hazardous materials) and which require special permits to travel on public roads. These (and only these) types of trucks are forbidden – probably due to the steepness of the hill, or a tight corner at the bottom which could result in a stuck truck, unable to extricate itself which would block the road.

So carrying a permit is a sign that a truck is unsafe on certain roads and should be banned from them.

The same sign has been blogged about elsewhere, again with expressions of bewilderment (from non-truck drivers). These bloggers ask why the sign doesn’t say something like “No trucks requiring permits allowed” — but of course the sign works fine for the intended audience.

3 Responses to “Permitted loads”

  1. A “no permitted” sign « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Zwicky has now managed to photograph the “no permitted” sign I talked about here (which is slightly different in wording from what I reported in that […]

  2. Gary Says:

    In the 50s, my parents and I were dumbfounded when the road we wanted to take was marked “Road legally closed”. As law-abiding Germans it was really hard to drive there, even though we figured out that it didn’t mean what it seemed to say, since other cars blithely drove on the road.

    It was only long after that we realized the the sign meant that the state didn’t mid if we drove there, but assumed no liability if something went wrong.

  3. Chris Waigl Says:

    But road users who are not members of the intended audience are in trouble: There’s no easy way of ascertaining whether or not the sign does in fact apply to them. I’d be worried I’m in breach of some rule I don’t fully understand.

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