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2022 May 12

The mystery of this Symbole

*Flashback*

I'm sitting in front of my computer screen staring at the cringiest website on the internet. Yes, that's right, I managed to stay logged in to LinkedIn for more than 3 minutes, suffering in that time endless posts from long-forgotten college acquaintances about how proud they are to be part of... whatever machine they got cogged into. My company didn't have a logo, and as we all know that's a no no. So I started googling...

I wanted to keep it cheap and use a symbol for the logo. First, I looked for logos that would fit the automation aspect of what the company did, but problematically all I got were pictures of cartoon robots. Visual representations of digital robots are hard to come by. Abstraction is by its nature hard to picture. Second, I started looking at musical symbols because that's what I had done before and there are some weird and cool ones (like Dal Segno). In the end, the curves of musical language seemed to me too playful. This was serious business, and the logo needed to have sharp angles so everyone would know just how serious.

I started looking through manuals on electrical engineering, physics papers, and computer architecture guides. I wasn't reading these, mind you, I was blitzing through looking for anything that would pop out. I had at least 20 tabs open, paging like a pallid psycho, letting my brain make a paper sound effect for each scroll of the pdf. And then on a tab, I don't remember which, in a document I expect never again to see, a symbol spoke to me. "Step!" it said.

Ok, that's actually a line from Martin Scorsese's 2016 historical drama Silence, but the sentiment was the same. I downloaded the image or screenshotted it. I uploaded it to LinkedCringe, closed all my tabs, and called it a day. It was august, sunny outside, and the cafe was still open.

Little nothings call to us on summer afternoons, they pull us from our sheltered rooms. They call us for a grand ole time, they wail to us, they beg, they pine. Alas, we meet our nothing all too soon, it waits for us, an empty tomb.

The everlasting punishment of the unknown symbol.

The French government was very insistent that children in France speak French, and not Occitan, Catalan, Breton, etc. To do this they created a system of punishment called Le Symbole. It involved the use of a symbolic marker (a medallion or token), which the students themselves were responsible for passing around. If a student caught another student speaking not French he was to give that student Le Symbole. That victim could pass it on to another if he caught them, and so on. Whoever held it at the end of the day would be punished.

The process of choosing a symbol for your logo and then bearing the everlasting frustration of not knowing where it came from provides, on some level, a similar effect. You have the feeling of having been passed Le Symbole from a long chain of others only to discover that you appear to be stuck in lonely possession of it. No punishment ever comes though, at least not one you don't force on yourself. The French government is astonishingly innocent in this whole affair.

What is it?

I have tried to find the symbol once or twice as it bothered me that many times. Reverse image searches seem to produce only pictures of traffic cones or triangle warning signs (surely a hopeless omen). Whatever pdf it came from remains shockingly beyond the sight of google's all-seeing eye.

If you know what this symbol is, where it comes from, or what it is used for, please let me know.

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