When Exactly Did “Signs” Become “Signage?”

Did it happen about the time when “toilet paper” became “bathroom tissue” and used cars became “previously owned automobiles?”

Or was it more recently when previously owned became too long and got shortened to “pre-owned?”


Filed under: Venting


  1. Finally… I have always wanted to know this. I don’t think “signage” even shows up in a Webster. Now, can we work on “impact” being used as a verb? I find that far more annoying.

    Comment by bytes33 — 2.16.2011 @ 2:20 pm

  2. My favorite are the talking heads on local TV weather who refer to everything as a “system.” Heaven forbid they would refer to what is occuring as just “rain,” “snow,” or even “cold front”. No, it is a “rain system” or “a frontal system.” I was a TV weatherman myself many years ago and one of the old professionals then who had done radio in the 1930’s gave me the best advice I ever got. He said, “Two minutes before you do the weather report on the air, go outside and see what’s happening. You’ll be less of an idiot.”

    Comment by Ken — 2.16.2011 @ 3:20 pm

  3. The ODEL reports the word signage, derived from the Middle French seenaugue(translated as super-dooper freeway eyesore) entered the English launguage about the same time vigor and rigor became synonyms, which is to say about the time we all became robust and more unique.

    Comment by Kate Campbell — 2.16.2011 @ 3:22 pm

  4. The Five Man Electrical Band would have struggled with “Signage.”

    Comment by slyle — 2.16.2011 @ 4:08 pm

  5. Same time as a problem became “problematic” as in “Houston, we have had a problematic event out here in space”

    Comment by Richard — 2.16.2011 @ 5:32 pm

  6. Two more annoying idiotic terms: “proactive” and “going forward.” One is either active of inactive, and while it may make some sense to specify that one is going sideways or backwards, it’s presumed that the only other and normal way to go somewhere is forward, though this silly expression is usually used as a synonym for “looking ahead” or a substitute for “what’s next?”.

    Comment by Curious Fred — 2.16.2011 @ 8:04 pm

  7. It occurred about 20 years ago when some nouns became verbs. An example: I would like to gift this to you…..

    And also, during a time period when “downsized” was changed to “right-sized”…..

    Comment by Pat Henning, Sr. — 2.16.2011 @ 8:22 pm

  8. If that was not a rhetorical question, “signage” first appeared in books around 1900 and then dropped out of use. It reappeared in the mid-1960s and took off in the late 1970s.

    See Google N-grams for the curve.


    The same site shows that “bathroom tissue” is barely a blip compared with “toilet paper,” and “previously owned” is still only a quarter as common as “used car.” You must hang out with a lot of euphemists.

    Comment by anandine — 4.06.2011 @ 9:43 am

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