November 18, 2009, 10:31 am Letters Lost, Meaning Found
By JENNIFER LEE
The sign, more accurately, should have read "U R HURT."
But no: when the sign outside Elmhurst Hospital Center lost an "E" and "S" because the lights burned out, the result was "lmhur t." Or, to some eyes, "I'm hurt."
Benjamin Schmerler, a 41-year-old resident of Jackson Heights, Queens, noticed the sign when he was walking home on Sunday night past the emergency room. He was so struck that he went back to take a photo of it. "I think I'm going to start referring to it as the 'Wheel of Fortune' hospital," he said.
When shown Mr. Schmerler's photo, Dario Centorcelli, a hospital spokesman, said, "Oh, God, are we going to get this fixed?"
Perhaps the change was a result of the karmic energy emanating from the emergency room, or the purposeful sabotage of an emergency room patient who was tired of waiting?
"I don't believe in any of that," Mr. Centorcelli said. "It's just that a couple of bulbs went out."
Of course, the Internet is full of real-life photos of neon signs with burned-out letters that take on new (and unintended) meanings.
But the best double-entendre signs are found in Hollywood (where, incidentally, the landmark sign originally read "Hollywoodland," to advertise a housing development there, before the suffix "-land" was taken off).
In the 1992 film "Batman Returns," Catwoman smashes the "O" and "T" on a sign that says "Hello There!" leaving a more ominous "Hell Here."
The cartoon family "The Simpsons" once stayed at a "SLEEP-EAZY MOTEL," where a burned-out "E" "P" and "E" rendered it into a more accurate and descriptive ""Sleazy Motel."
And in the 1942 Abbott and Costello film "Who Done It?" a shootout turns "VOTE FOR TOWNSEND PHELPS" to "SEND HELP," which again gets shortened simply to "END."
And the men in the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" got inspiration for the name of their band when the lights on a bowling alley sign were fixed and turned "OUR SONS" to "FOUR SEASONS."
The Queens hospital did not seem interested in pursuing such creative truncated messages.
Before Mr. Centorcelli hung up the phone, he added, "Thank goodness our name is 'Elmhurst' instead of some other name where it could go out really bad."