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Birmingham Market: Unconventional product placement


Every Saturday for about the past 18 months, Rebecca and I have been going down to Birmingham market to stock up on our weekly quota of fruit, vegetables and meat. It’s some of the best quality food I’ve bought in Birmingham, it’s cheap as chips, and it supports the local economy. Ultimately, it’s pretty much a win/win situation for everyone involved. The market is also one of the busiest places in Birmingham in terms of food shopping (I’m not including food shopping in Selfridges. That’s not shopping. It’s posing). As a result, the place is alive with languages from all corners of the globe, and the food on offer is similarly exotic. As you can imagine, it’s a brilliant place to people watch, but it’s also a place where a sociolinguist can have a field day listening to all manner of interesting linguistic phenomena, from politeness theory to code-mixing to non-standard Englishes and everything in-between.

Sometimes, though, there are things that catch the ear (or in this case, the eye) more than most, and last week, I came across perhaps the single most oddest item I’ve ever seen on sale in the market.

For when the family gets too much...

This sign was snapped at one of the stands which sells assorted nuts, but I have absolutely no idea what on earth this could be, especially if it’s some sort of incorrect translation of something else? Perhaps something akin to ‘keep your family happy nuts’? Or maybe ‘keep your family quiet with nuts’? Seriously, family tranquilizers? Whatever next, ‘spouse amphetamines’?

The Social Linguist

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  1. a.d.p.h
    February 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Completely agree re: Birmingham market, though I tend to go on a Thursday…

    And if “family tranquilizers” catch on, then your blog is the top post on Google (the only post in reality…). No idea what they might be though, although a mis-translation seems the most obvious guess. Did you buy them? You never know…

  2. February 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I can only go at the weekend because of work and teaching, but I think I’ll need to ask them about what they are next time I’m in. Seriously, I’ve still got no idea!

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