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DECATUR — One side of the Best Friends Vet Care sign on Oakland Avenue reads, “We like big mutts and we cannot lie.” On the other: “Exercise? I thought you said extra fries!” 

The roadside sign used to be strictly for business. Dr. Greg Skelton, the veterinarian, thought they should stick to promotions and encouraging people to update vaccinations and such.

Then they had an idea. They got creative, and when Skelton realized the one-liners got more attention, his mind was changed. Now the staff scours the internet for amusing and catchy messages to use. The same technique is used on the clinic's East Eldorado Street location. 

“Nobody talked about the sign,”  receptionist Brooke Haskell said. “But now people come here and tell us they came in because of the sign.”

The pun-filled wordplay is an example of clever marketing that appears on plenty of signs in the region, from businesses to churches. Through movable type and thick letters, they provide a sense of personality and humor — and hopefully sear a memory into place.

Who wouldn't look twice at “Septic tanks pumped. Swimming pools filled. Not same truck” or “I was addicted to the hokey pokey but I turned myself around"? Or consider the Santa Fe, New Mexico, High School sign: “School resumes Aug. 20. Resistance is futile. You will be educated.”

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Filippo's Pizza and Pasta

Traffic on Mount Zion Road passes Filippo's Pizza and Pasta. The businesses uses wordplay on its sign. 

The sign outside Elwin United Methodist Church on Elwin Road is one most people could agree with: “I wish Noah had swatted those two mosquitoes.”

Member Roger Peterson is responsible for the funny messages and said a previous pastor gave the job to him and told him he could put anything he wanted to on the sign.

“At first I just got pieces of paper or I saw a good sign (somewhere else),” said Peterson, a member for 50 years. “Then a pastor gave me a book of signs with quotes and I put some of them on there, and lately I've been getting on the internet. There's a source, Sayings for Church Signs and it's a free resource for churches.”

He changes the sign every two weeks so people won't get tired of it, he said. The website offers several pages of funny sayings, but also has inspirational sayings and themed choices in categories from prayer to winter to holidays.

It's not just the private sector using cheesy phrases to get attention. Officials in Indian Hills, Colorado, include puns like "I call my horse mayo and sometimes mayo neighs" on their community center sign. 

In advance of a Beyonce concert last month, the Arizona Department of Transportation wrote on highway signs, "Crazy in love with drivers who use turn signals," according to the Arizona Republic. The Maine Department of Transportation received 2,000 entries in a contest to find humorous safety sign messages, after officials did their own for years, like "Santa sees you when you’re speeding." 

Closer to home, the sign at Majestic Bingo in Mount Zion reads, “What happens at bingo stays at bingo.”

“We make-a the nice pizza,” reads one side of Filippos Pizza and Pasta in Mount Zion, while the other side advises, “Don't be a rebel. Keep it level.”

Church signs usually have inspirational messages, and so does Argenta Baptist Church's sign, but phrased in a way that passing motorists can probably relate to: “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”

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Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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