The Modern, Conventional

The Mark of Cain started out as a protection device but you can imagine people asking Cain where they could get theirs, and his response “all you have to do is…”

But what to do if you don’t have a sibling and you really want to get the cool mark? Kill another relative, or better yet, a complete stranger, and here we are, today, far from world peace.

Lack of context is to blame for misinterpretation of symbols and signs.

Take for example this sign:



I see ‘Flag a Cab’ but it is supposed to mean ‘Arriving Flights’. OK, not a big deal.

What about this one:


I see ‘Crocodile Feeding’ but it is supposed to mean ‘Litter Disposal’.

Finally an interesting one:

I see ‘Cabinet Handle’, and you, perhaps tired of my games want to scream ‘It’s a ‘Phone’ stupid!

I bet kids do not understand the meaning of this sign, although they know its function. We understand cultural disconnects, especially of the sad ‘Tarzan’ type where the supposedly primitive third world is perplexed by our modern one. But as the last sign demonstrates, the ‘modern’ is not immune to exposing its mortality. Suddenly you experience being old if you remember the Telephone.

Kids may know the function of this sign because of similar signs they see, for example, on the iPhone and on most other cell phone:


Representational association by resemblance evolved into a representation by convention. Two and three generations removed from the original object, context was lost, but function is carried over 'because it was always like that'.

About 10 years ago Marcel Marceau performed in Chicago and their were many kids in the audience, and everyone had a good time. But in one of the skits the kids were silent because they they did not get the pantomime centered around a rotary phone.