Thursday, March 06, 2014

More Hebrew in New York

The other week I saw this sign up in the 14th St. A train station:
Aside from the bizarre, slightly creepy (and yet excellent parody of MTA signage) elements of this sign, I was confused by the choice of languages. English, what-I-think-is-Chinese, and Hebrew. This isn't the first time I've reported on Hebrew being a language choice in the NYC area. But I don't understand it. If you check out this chart of languages spoken in NYC, after English, the top three most common languages spoken in NYC are Spanish, Chinese and Russian. So, they got the what-I-think-is-Chinese right, but Hebrew is in the 15th place, under Polish, Tagalog and Arabic. So the choice of Hebrew is pretty weird.

Then, there's the strange conjugation of "Pay attention" in Hebrew. It is a female singular conjugation, as if "New York" were an individual female person. Personally, I think "שימו לב" makes more sense, as in: "Pay attention [you plural people of] New York." I checked Google (they say 'שים לב', male singular, with 'שימו לב' as an alternate) and Bing gives my translation. So no clue where they got that translation from.


  1. I can confirm that the Chinese looking characters are indeed simplified Chinese. Also, the second character from the right means "heart" (not surprisingly). The third and fourth from the left are shorthand for New York (JKLOL)

  2. Shouldn't be too hard to track down someone who wears yellow pants.

  3. You can't assume that people who use that station are typical of NYCers as a whole. Maybe whoever made that sign has reason to believe that disproportionately many Hebrew-speakers will see it.

    1. That's the 19th-busiest subway station in the system (468 stations total), on one of the busiest Manhattan lines. I see no reason to expect that station has disproportionately more Hebrew speakers, and probably tracks the city's language demographics pretty closely.

    2. Interesting point and discussion ... thanks for the comment!