SIGNS – work in progress

Road signs – Aramco, in Arabic and English, on the Aramco compound in Saudi Arabia. The entire compound looked like a small town in the USA. Then a STOP sign in, Korean or Japanese – I don’t remember.

Portuguese road signs. See this link for the signs you don’t understand.

The words ‘sign’ and ‘symbol’ are often interchangeable and listed as synonyms in many sources. My first inclination made me think of road signs. The STOP sign is universal in its octagon shape and red color, but not always language. Strangely in Portugal, the sign is in English.

At first, signs to me were non-verbal, public communication. Then, I thought of weather signs: various clouds predict the future weather. Then when meeting people, their very physical appearance is a sign of who they are. Their movements and facial expressions also communicate non-verbal information. Or signs of wealth in a society such as gold jewelry or expensive cars. Even buildings such as temples and monuments declare a culture’s sense of self and history. Even graveyard headstones are signs. Math, music, and zodiac signs never occurred to me until I read the definition at the end! (I’ve avoided using ‘symbol’ because that cuts too close to Joseph Campell’s marvelous book Man & His Symbols. Nope – Carl Jung’s book but Campell’s myth books are also fantastic.) (Images from

Pictographs are ancient signs drawn of animals onto rocks. Some of these are more than 40,000 years old. Modern graffiti may be their equivalent. Gobi Tepe in Turkey is unique because it has symbols of animals.

Cuneiform examples from Museum of Antiquities in Ankara, Turkey. The first is a peace treaty between Hittites and Ancient Egyptians Then letters from queens to each other. Then pictoglyphs from a Saudi Arabian mountain top. Then another from Ankara, and the last from Saudi Arabia.

Language is a form of sign-making. Even complicated Chinese began as simple strokes that represented things. Sumerians in Ur, Mesopotamia, created cuneiform as the first recorded written language. Some languages are still undecipherable, as the one next to the Chinese.

History evolved as groups warred. Signs evolved as a means for rulers to communicate with the ruled. With written language, often mastered by the minority ruling classes, non-verbal signs became common. The color purple was so expensive to make, it became a sign for royalty. Walled cities around the world, as well as fortified castles, are signs of violence and protection throughout history. As a child, I did not believe spring would return. The first sign of spring for me was green grass stalks peeking through white snow. In Portugal, I’ve even noticed that many kinds of trees literally bloom, predicting spring.

Wosil, old walled town in Oman; Sohar Fort in Oman; another walled town in Oman

One of the most common non-verbal signs around the world are road signs for motorists. To my surprise, even the common blue and white sign pattern in the USA for freeways has been copied by many countries for their own highways.

Stores have signs, hotels warn guests of appropriate behavior, the physical body produces signs when ill, such as with measles and chicken pox. It seems most anything physical can be viewed as a sign.

For example, the common red and white twirling barber shop sign in the USA, in Taiwan did not offer men haircuts, but women. The excessively many small hotels in Taichung astounded me. Later I learned they were ‘love hotels’ for the locals. These were not just for prostitution, but also for couples who lived with their extended families to have some privacy. Once while walking with a friend in Pohang in South Korea, main roads were being repaired so we took the side street off the main road. To my surprise I though we were in Amsterdam’s Red Light District with women displayed in windows. In Taiwan, I lived in a love hotel for a few months. To my surprise, it was quiet. But every single door had been kicked in. Why? I never learned. Yet in Taiwan, dildos for women’s use were illegal.

Even buildings are signs. Many official buildings in the Western world adopted the Ancient Greek and Roman Empire buildings with imposing columns topped with Doric or ……. designs. Such buildings are usually government buildings used to impress its citizens, as they once adorned temples in Athens and Rome.

In an earlier blog entry, I posted photos of money from around the world – they too are signs of what the culture values and chooses to present to their own people and the world. French francs included artists, Colombia had women, Arabic money often featured their living rulers and oil rigs as well as traditional falcon hunting and falajs – irrigation canals.

One time, while engrossed in reading mysticism, trying to understand it with psychology, I thought (or read) that if a person has a problem they should articulate the problem in their head. Then, the first person they talk to, will offer a solution. That person will not actually verbalize the answer, but the person proposing the question must open their charkas and listen to the other person on more than one level of reality – to search for deeper meanings in the conversation.

The most valued sign for many people is: for definition of ‘sign’:

a token; indication.

any object, action, event, pattern, etc., that conveys a meaning.

a conventional or arbitrary mark, figure, or symbol used as an abbreviation for the word or words it represents.

a motion or gesture used to express or convey an idea, command, decision, etc.:Her nod was a sign that it was time to leave.

a notice, bearing a name, direction, warning, or advertisement, that is displayed or posted for public view:a traffic sign; a store sign.

a trace; vestige:There wasn’t a sign of them.

an arbitrary or conventional symbol used in musical notation to indicate tonality, tempo, etc.

Medicine/Medical. the objective indications of a disease.

any meaningful gestural unit belonging to a sign language.

an omen; portent:a sign of approaching decadence.

sign of the zodiac.

sign language (def. 1).

Usually signs. traces, as footprints, of a wild animal.


  1. plus sign or minus sign 
  2. a plus sign or minus sign used as the positive or negative value
  3. multiplication sign.
  4. division sign.
  5. a symbol, as  or !, used to indicate a radical or factorial operation.

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