By inclination and education, I’m a linguist. I don’t think this is why I’m greatly interested in words also as a photographer though, because paying attention to the words surrounding you can add a lot of visual interest to your photos. Beyond funny messages and beautiful fonts, words in the landscape, whether urban or rural, speak of culture. Of civilisation. Official signs in two languages, such as you see for example in Ireland, tell you that there is more to Ireland linguistically than the English you usually hear. In Norway, while the official signs are in Norwegian only (other than in the north, but that’s a another story), you will see a lot of signage in English. Some English signs are meant for tourists, some are to show that the writer is international and cool and not stuck in backwater-Norway, and some, I suspect, are in English just because, since many Norwegians enjoy the language.
I am holidaying in Oslo at the moment, and I have been wandering the city looking for words that speak of summer. Here are a few of the words I found.
‘The Norwegian waffle fryery’. Waffles are considered a Norwegian speciality (these are floppy waffles, served with for example sour cream or goat cheese, unlike the Belgian ones), which makes Norwegian a natural choice for the signage.
A candy floss bike! With one sign in English letting the tourists know that most currencies are accepted.
Mostly Norwegian names here, for a grocery store and a florist and a hairdresser. This shopping centre also hosts a health club which is a part of the Norwegian chain ‘Fresh Fitness’ – a typical example of English being used because it is modern and hip. Or something.
‘Welcome to se.va. Outdoor seating. Open from 11-00’. These people have kept to Norwegian even though they are square in the middle of the tourist track (thus the tourist bus in the background).
‘Try our NEW menu’.
An English-language food truck in the background.
‘The Lighter. Grill|Seafood’
I have no idea what Argentum is, but I loved how appropriately silvery the letters looked in the sun.
What languages do you find where you are? Don’t forget that this month’s Viewfinder theme is WORDS. Do share your WORD images on Instagram and tag them #words and #viewfindersio by July 28th for a chance to be featured in our August 1st post.