A bizarre road sign has left social media users seriously confused – although some reckon they know what it really means.
Anyone who’s ever taken a driving theory test will know just how many signs there are to memorise before legally getting on the road.
As outlined in the Highway Code, signs with a red circle are ‘mostly prohibitive’, while the ‘mostly triangular’ versions are usually warnings and the ‘mostly rectangular’ ones are direction signs.
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg – as some Reddit users realised when one posted a photo of a particularly confusing sign.
The image was originally posted on Flickr in 2006 by Joe Dunckley, who said the sign pictured was along the B3159 near Martinstown, just outside of Dorchester, Dorset.
The sign in question – rectangular with a red background – simply reads: “Sign not in use.”
So it’s a sign about a sign that is not in use? Right...
Well, it turns out that’s not quite what it means, although I think we can all be forgiven for feeling a little confused by the situation.
In fact, it’s a question that has cropped up many times over the years, Other people have also shared similar photos over the years, with 53 posts on Instagram dedicated to the hashtag #signnotinuse.
“What does this sign mean?” Redditor u/KiwiGaming02 wrote in the recent post, which has now garnered more than 7,000 upvotes and hundreds of comments.
“If you notice this notice, then you'll notice that this notice wasn't really worth noticing,” one person joked.
Someone else said: “The sign is not in use which means the statement on the sign if false which means it is in use. It’s a logical paradox designed to stop rogue AI from using that road.”
A third wrote: “Could [have] just said 'sign intentionally blank'.”
My head hurts.
Someone else offered up a bit of an explanation, although this didn’t do much to clear up the matter.
“Checked in the highway code, and it actually just means that a variable message sign ahead is not in use, or being tested,” they said, adding: “Boring.”
Another user then replied: “But why do they have a permanent sign to convey the status of a variable sign? That seems even more mental that it being self referring.”
Someone else then jumped in: “It might mean a permanent variable message sign is permanently decommissioned, but not actually demolished yet.”
My head now hurts even more.
According to TheoryTest.org.uk, the sign does, indeed, indicate that a ‘sign ahead which is usually offering a variable message’ is not currently in use, or is being tested.
Roadsignsdirect.co.uk also says it's a sign to show that a 'variable message sign ahead' is 'not in use or being tested'.
In short, the ‘sign not in use’ sign refers to another sign that is – you've guessed it – not in use.
The ‘sign not in use’ sign, however... is very much in use.