120px-No_Left_Turn.svgOne of my favorite encounters with the unique Italian mentality involved a police officer who was trying to give me driving directions to the Piazza di Venezia in Rome. He repeated the directions several times, but each time I was stumped when he said, “You’ll see a sign that says ‘don’t turn left.’ Turn left.’ ” Finally, he became frustrated with me and told me to follow him with my car while he walked me through the first part of the trip. At the end of a narrow street – an alley, really – he turned toward the car and held up both hands. He walked over to the driver’s widow, pointed at the universal symbol displayed on the street corner, and asked, “Si vede il segno che significa non girare a sinistra?” Yes, I said, I could see the sign that meant “don’t turn left.” “Beh!” he said. “Svoltare a sinistra!!” 

Oh.

The Christian Science Monitor has interesting reviews of several books and a web site that explore various aspects of the signs that tell us where we should or can or should not or cannot go. It’s at this link: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0522/p17s03-algn.html