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South African road sign.

The picture depicts a real traffic sign painted in South Africa. It was intended to be an official traffic sign - but the painter, being unfamiliar with them, painted this according to the brief he was given.

What does the road sign represent? What was the brief? What language was this likely to be given in?

There are no cephalopods in the area - it is not close to the coast.

If you want a list of road signs in South Africa...

https://www.rhinocarhire.com/Drive-Smart-Blog/Drive-Smart-South-Africa/South-Africa-Road-Signs.aspx BTW: I have not relation or interest in this webpage

Clue 01

I know some of you have got this already, but others seem to have missed it.

Do not guess the sign from the picture itself but from the description of the picture

Clue 02

New words (neologisms) for new things are often formed by giving related words new suffixes.

Clue 03

How would you describe the cephalopod’s arms depicted on traffic warning sign?

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    $\begingroup$ Is it safe to assume that the answer is one of the signs on the website you posted? $\endgroup$
    – SQLnoob
    Jun 29 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ @SQLnoob, I think it would have been disingenuous of me if that were not the case. I like to believe that I am an honest chap ;-). I did note that the elephant crossing sign in the photo is not shown as a formal sign - but this sign isn't any form of “(weird animal) crossing”! $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jun 29 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ Hints should be non-necessary - given the quantity of answers here, it seems that the pre-hint question is not sufficiently precise/has too little information to yield a single clear answer. "A question where multiple answers fit equally well without the hints is too broad. It doesn't have to be closed, but the necessary information should be moved from the hints into the main part of the question itself." - I've voted to close this Q, but will retract/reopen-vote once enough important information is in the open. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Jul 3 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Konchog whether you can get it quickly is not the question - the problem is currently that everyone else is failing to get the intended answer but can find a bunch of other answers that also make sense. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Jul 3 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ Also, note the "popularity" is because of the number of answers. SE has a cross-site promotion called Hot Network Questions whose formula weights # of answers highly. So several answers -> off-site visitors -> more answers, in an endless cycle that has more to do with puzzle broadness then quality. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Jul 4 at 1:13

11 Answers 11

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The sign is supposed to be

Slippery road surface ahead

Clearly, the round object is a

car tire

and the cephalopod's arms are

the tire tracks.

Presumably, the brief was something to the effect of

A car tire with wavy tracks leading to it.

Note a hidden clue:

The title mentioned "raining".

For comparison:

Slippery road surface ahead South African road sign.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nicely done. For the brief I had something like rot13("jvttyl yvarf pbzvat sebz gur jurry(f) bs n pne"). $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jul 9 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ The language aspect (while not necessary) concerned rot13(N cbffvoyr abha eryngvba orgjrra 'pne' naq 'jurry', (yvxr jr unir 'jurryf' nf fynat sbe pne)) – however I was picked up on that being rather tenuous. $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jul 9 at 11:01
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Here's a wild guess:

The artist was told to paint a yellow triangle with a red border, which means it might have been one of these. Perhaps it was supposed to be the "Roundabout ahead" sign, which the brief might have described as a circle of arrows. Translated to Southern Sotho, google tells me this would be "selikalikoe sa metsu." The extremely similar looking "selikalikoe sa metso" translates to "circle of roots" so the artist painted a circle with roots emanating from it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah that's so good ;-D. It was my first guess too.. $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jun 29 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Konchog Is it right? $\endgroup$
    – Varun W.
    Jun 29 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ I dont know for sure but your answer does not mention how the circle of roots starts from the edge. Given the instructions most people will draw it from the middle. $\endgroup$
    – Varun W.
    Jun 29 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @VarunW. No, it is not.. $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jun 29 at 13:59
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Surely it is the heavy crosswinds in area warning. represents the flag blowing in wind. Description mention striped tubular flag and the circle is the attempt at a tubular flag with the stripes around the tube instead being streamers off the back.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think not! You have more imagination than either the painter or I ! $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jun 29 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ I link this answer. If rot13(jvaqfbpx) get translated as equivalent to rot13(fgernzre), this becomes a quite viable image. This could reasonably happen if the target language does not include aircraft and aircraft terminology. $\endgroup$
    – David G.
    Jul 3 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidG., yes but there is a much stronger answer still not suggested. $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jul 3 at 19:23
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I immediately thought of a

loose surface material

sign, like this here:

enter image description here

It clearly shows the brief, which would have been

"several stones flying away from a car wheel", but the painter depicted the whooshes as squiggles, omitted the car - focusing on the wheel instead and changed the POV to the side.

It would also be a sign that is presumably sorely needed where infrastructure is so lacking that a human hand-paints traffic signs.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is not a bad answer at all.... But the "rot13(jubbfurf nf fdhvttyrf)" is too imaginative, and what about the rot13(pne/jurry)? $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jun 30 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ I like your edit to my edit $\endgroup$ Jul 1 at 8:49
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    $\begingroup$ @PuzzlingFerret Thanks, I'm glad to have found a balance between your intention and mine. $\endgroup$
    – zovits
    Jul 1 at 9:07
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Having looked through all of the signs on the South African road sign page, I think it has to be:

"Road ahead curves to the left side"

I'm guessing this description was given to someone who took it much too literally, and is a depiction of a head (stylized as a thick circle) with curves (curvy lines) to the left side.

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Would it be:

Mandatory lights on

Sorry I have no idea what the brief or language might be.

Reasoning:

I had a thought that the solid headlamp with the transparent oval to the side might be misinterpreted as as a transparent circle within a solid circle, there are lines radiating from the headlamp which could also be misinterpreted if the brief did not state they were straight. It would depend on the brief and language of course which I'm afraid I do not know.

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    $\begingroup$ It would be great if you added some reasoning! I sort of get it, but that’s a “mandatory” sign - which doesn’t really fit in a triangle… :-) $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jun 30 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Konchog, added some reasoning, but it would depend on the language and wording of the brief, which I have stated I do not know. $\endgroup$
    – DafyddNZ
    Jun 30 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ Nice! And thank-you! But it isn’t the right road sign. There are ten official languages in SA other than English… $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jun 30 at 1:17
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't know there were that many, and I'm afraid I'm a monolinguist so I was pretty sure I was missing something. $\endgroup$
    – DafyddNZ
    Jun 30 at 1:35
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Bit of a stretch but it could be the

"Warning for a quayside or riverbank" sign from the link

With the tentacles being

waves

And the circle

the wheel of a submerged car

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  • $\begingroup$ Haha.. I love that but no... The level of imagination is fantastic. $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jun 30 at 15:15
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I think it might be the

"Warning for curves" sign. The artist got told something along the lines of "a red triangle on a light background, with squiggly line showing the road ahead". He painted the triangle point downward, with the circle at the bottom to show the starting point, and 5 squiggly lines. (This may actually represent the road ahead, or maybe the lanes ahead, or maybe even just the lines on the road ahead.) The use of yellow instead of white might be a linguistic issue, or maybe he started with a yellow painted blank.

When it came to installation,

the installer knew the correct orientation of warning signs, and rotated it 60° counterclockwise.

As for language, I have no idea.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a reasonable answer and I like the logic. But it’s not the answer I am looking for - it’s still got too much imagination involved! $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jul 1 at 7:17
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I now think it might be

"Falling rocks in road", what I would know as Falling Rock Zone. The artist was told something like rocks falling off a hillside or cliff. The circle in the lower right is the rock. The lines are a either a stylized hillside or a representation of "falling", and in either case may be language or culturally significant.

Again, no idea on the language.

I might guess that it is a language that developed in a very flat area, and doesn't have many words for hills, mountains, or cliffs.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is, again, a very nice guess. I love the ‘woosh’ Lines of the rock. But still not right. If you think if the brief that our painter would have been given it would have been something like “rocks falling down a slope”. And this is too abstract for that… $\endgroup$
    – Konchog
    Jul 3 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ Except that based on Clue 02, it might be transliterated back as "rock falling down a hill-hill-hill", which might not be that bad a match for the image. $\endgroup$
    – David G.
    Jul 3 at 19:16
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I think it may be:

Pedestrian crossing. I had the guess while wondering why the artist drew five "tentacles", not four or three. A brief check of road signs show pedestrian crossing is the only sign with five stripes. So the brief could be something to the effect of "five stripes and a person." Google Translate suggests in Xhosa and Zulu at least, "stripes" and "strokes" come from the same word in that language. Which seems to explain how the lines look like tentacles. I have no idea why the circle was there, however as I do not know any of those local languages.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, it could be an installation issue as I suggested in one of my answers. Maybe the circle was, for the artist, supposed to be at the top. $\endgroup$
    – David G.
    Jul 7 at 22:03
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Given the rejections to date, and the statement that it isn't a weird animal in road, I think there is only one other reasonable answer:

Warning of poor visibility due to rain, fog or snow

In this case, the lines are uneven instead of even, and headed to the wrong corner. And instead of a car he drew an eye.

Again, I can't guess the language. I also have no theory in this case about how the language made it go wrong.

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