At times we say things without words, so this week I’m looking at other forms of communication.
Did you know there are hidden messages carved on gravestones? A rosebud with broken stem says: here lies a girl who didn’t live to blossom into womanhood. Clasped hands signifies parting from a loved one. Daffodils symbolise unrequited love. The Latin phrase “memento mori” (remember death) is to remind others they too will die.
The petrol sign on your dashboard has the pump handle on the same side as your car’s petrol cap, for those who can never remember. A fish symbol on the back of a car means the driver is a Christian.
You can tell the branch of armed forces by the salute. The army has the palm facing outwards, with the hand moving long way up (out to the side) shortest way down. Forefinger rests one inch above the eye. The RAF salute is similar, except the forefinger is to the side of the forehead. Navy salutes are palm downwards, the arm traveling shortest way up shortest way down because space is restricted on a ship. Scouts salute with three fingers. Scouts chant “dyb dyb dyb” (do your best) and are answered “we’ll dob dob dob” (do our best).
Shake hands with a Freemason and they may press their thumb on your knuckle to indicate involvement with the organisation. The first, second, or third knuckle pressed represents the first three “degrees” (levels of membership).
Delivery company Amazon’s logo has an arrow pointing from A to Z, an indication of what the firm aspires to supply.
We regard 13 as unlucky (13 attendees at the Last Supper). In Japan, four is unlucky because the word for four (shi) sounds like the word for death. Number 17 is unlucky in Italy – there were no row 17s on Alitalia planes.
In cricket or darts, a 111 score is a Nelson, from the (incorrect) story the admiral had one eye, one arm, and one leg. Number 1, Kelly’s Eye, at bingo is said because Australian outlaw Ned Kelly had only one peeper. Rather less brutally, a single red rose symbolises you are “the one”.
Red and white poles outside a barber indicates they once offered blood-letting to release bad humors from the body (we could argue over the spelling of humors!) And they could perform minor operations such as amputations. Perhaps my barber hasn’t completed his training, I have never been offered this service.
Word of the week
A graphic record of footprints. EG: “Much can be gleaned, without need of words, if a detective can read a stibogram accurately.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at email@example.com