Found this post making a joke on the use of JOIN in a Japanese restaurant. This instruction intends to tell customers not to rearrange tables, by placing them next to each other, thus making a "bigger table".


What is the correct word or phrase to be used here in place of JOIN, such as:

Please do not WORD or PHRASE here tables in this area.

I know that the message can be conveyed by rearrangement of words, but curious to know if there's a word or phrase that can retain the same word order.

  • 3
    The joke is more to do with the capitalization of the sentence than with the meaning of the sentence per se - "Join" is a valid (although slightly stilted) word to use here, but it should not be all capitalized. A fully capitalized "JOIN" in the middle of a sentence looks like the database programming language SQL, which is why the author of the joke thinks it is funny.
    – Matt
    Nov 15 '13 at 18:46

Most people would not have a problem understanding this wording, though it is definitely not something a native speaker would say. It is amusing because JOIN is a command used to combine database tables. Only people familiar with databases would have any reason to laugh at this.

I think the best substitute would be pretty much what you already said:

Please do not rearrange the tables in this area.

This foils the joke, and sounds more natural to a native speaker. If you want to specifically address making "bigger" tables, you can say:

Please do not push together any tables in this area.

push together sounds a little more natural, and adding "any" makes it flow a little better.

  • 1
    @jeysmith It is definitely grammatically correct, and people would know what you meant. But it is a little confusing to say "back-to-back" since tables are usually symmetrical, and don't really have "backs" or "fronts".
    – Gray
    Nov 15 '13 at 16:39
  • 1
    Thanks Gray, and by the way a 'TABLE' can also be CREATE, TRUNCATE, ALTER and DROP :-))
    – jeysmith
    Nov 15 '13 at 16:52
  • 2
    I'm a native speaker, and the first word I thought of was "join". Also, "join" would be a subset of "rearrange", as "join" would mean "move tables so as to put two tables end to end, or combine two tables into one," while "rearrange" would cover a much broader set of actions, such as turning a rectangular table 90°.
    – J.R.
    Nov 15 '13 at 20:17
  • 1
    @J.R. Join seems okay to me, too. (Just my opinion!)
    – user230
    Nov 15 '13 at 20:31
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    @Gray - "push together" - that's a great answer! Please do not push together tables in this area (or maybe, Please do not push tables together in this area). It is clear and sounds somewhat natural, too. I think you should edit your answer and add that in.
    – J.R.
    Nov 15 '13 at 20:36

Yes, as a database guy, I see this as an old joke. But to a normal human being, I think this would be a perfectly natural sentence.

There is a potential ambiguity: Do you mean, "Do not move or re-arrange tables", or do you mean, "Do not sit at a table where others are already seated"? I'd be tempted to think the second. If there is a group of people already sitting at a table, and you wish to also sit at that table -- whether because you know them or because there's no room anywhere else or whatever -- the common phrasing is, "May I join you?"

  • I would think owners (presumably, the people who put up the sign) would be more likely to object to tables being moved than to people filling empty seats. In fact, I think they'd encourage filling empty seats if they could get away with it. Two people sitting at a table with four seats usually means that two other guests may have to wait for someone to finish before taking their seats.
    – Gray
    Nov 15 '13 at 19:48
  • 1
    @Gray Hmm, probably so. I could see the owners posting such a sign if there had been a problem with people walking in and sitting down at a table with other people. Like, I don't know, if it's a restaurant frequented by celebrities and fans have been coming in and trying to join their party or some such. But yeah, your theory is more likely.
    – Jay
    Nov 15 '13 at 21:58
  • So you're saying there's only 10 kinds of people in this world, those who know SQL and those who don't? ;-)
    – Jim
    Nov 16 '13 at 4:42
  • There are 3 kinds of people in the world: those who can count, and those who can't. :-)
    – Jay
    Nov 18 '13 at 16:42

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