A Picture’s Worth A Thousand (Swear)Words

Pictograms.  Never has a supposedly simple solution gone so laughably (and swearably) wrong.

I realize that they’re supposed to provide accessibility for the 5% of people who have difficulty reading; and it’s a great idea to add them to signs.  But take away the words, and it leaves all of us bumbling around wondering, “WTF is this supposed to mean?!?”  The ancient Egyptians used nothing but pictograms, and look where they ended up.  Just sayin’.

I’m all for pictograms plus words.  But pictograms alone are like playing Pictionary with art-challenged companions; except that the stakes are your time and sanity instead of gut-busting laughter and minor humiliation when you accidentally draw a pornographic-looking diagram that was supposed to have represented ‘stretch pants’.  (Not that that’s ever happened to anybody I know, nuh-uh, nope).

For instance, after years of exposure to this cryptic symbol, I’ve finally recognized that it means power on/off:

But if I were looking at it for the first time, I’d be stumped.

What is it supposed it to represent?  An apple?  A bathroom sink as seen from above?  A nipple ring?  A cherry bomb?  A sex act?  A giant space probe slamming into the planet and annihilating all life?  Or maybe it’s a finger pressing a button.  Who the hell knows?  Should I push that button or not?

My treadmill has equally arcane symbols.  You’d think it would be hard to go wrong — the tortoise means “slow” and the hare means “fast”.

But then there’s this:

I’m okay with ‘time’ represented by the clock and ‘speed’ represented by the rabbit.  But what’s that button with the vertical lines and double back-arrows?  Maybe it resets my time and mileage.  Or maybe if I press that button, my treadmill will suddenly reverse direction and accelerate to warp-speed, catapulting me off the treadmill and through the wall.  I could press it and find out; but I don’t dare.

The little flames under the right indicator are equally worrisome.  They’re supposed to indicate “calories burned”, but they could just as easily mean “your treadmill will catch fire in three… two…”

But I’m sure my treadmill would never do that, because it loves me.  That’s what those hearts mean, right…?

What pictograms do you love to hate?

P.S.  I just found this hilarious interpretation of laundry label symbols

Book 14 update:  Chapter 36 and going strong!  Now, if only my fingers would learn to correctly type “public” instead of “pubic”…

23 thoughts on “A Picture’s Worth A Thousand (Swear)Words

  1. Holy cow! Those laundry symbol explanations are hilarious!! 😂. I love puzzles so I see Pictograms and I go into Sherlock Holmes mode, lol. I have to admit, some of them are pretty baffling.
    I was reading the comments and somebody was talking about a typewriter. I tend to be a victim of auto-correct so I miss using a typewriter. I still have one and every once in a while I haul it out and type some random thoughts or whatever just to hear it’s tap- tappity-tap. Nothing trying to think for me. Every sound putting a letter to the page~sigh. Music to my ears.
    I’m getting really excited for the next book! Thank you!!


    • Thanks, Michelle! I’m excited that you’re excited! 🙂

      You’re right about auto-correct – it drives me nuts sometimes! Even when I type in what I really did mean to say, it auto-corrects it to something else entirely. Grrr. But I’ve gotten very used to the Backspace key on my computer keyboard. I don’t think I’d be able to type on a real typewriter anymore – I’d have so many characters running over top of each other that the whole thing would be unreadable!


  2. I clicked on the washing machine link….laughed my ass off!! We switched TV/Internet providers recently and now I’m stuck with deciphering the new remote control symbols….what the…..???? I’m constantly either switching channels when I want to hit pause or recording shows I simply wanted to turn the volume up. (probably doesn’t help as I need reading glasses and usually don’t have them on when handling the rote control….like it would make a difference)


    • Making the pictograms tiny is just another diabolical way to mess us up. Not only can I not see them in the first place, but even when I get out my reading glasses I can’t figure them out.

      I feel for you in your TV-remote suffering, and I’m glad you got a laugh from the laundry symbols! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it might have been National Lampoon a number of years ago that offered different size stickers of a screw. The idea was to use the appropriate sized one to cover the hearts on all those “I heart my poodle” or “I heart NY”, bacon, Jesus, Mom, or whatever bumper stickers. It could make a stroll through a parking lot really great entertainment!


  4. My husband (ex) once brought home a “car” (Peugeot) because his gave out on a trip across state and he decided to trade mid-trip. Once he got it home and took me for a ride trying to sell me on the idea of how “great” it was (secretly wanting me to switch cars with him. I took one look at the controls and buttons on the dash with all their “cute” pics or diagrams and told him in no short order that I was definitely not going to be trading cars with him. He eventually sold it to our CPA.

    Definitely know what you are talking about re: typing. I used to pride myself on my typing speed and accuracy. Used to take those typing tests on the internet. Now I don’t dare send something I’ve written without re-reading it at least once or twice. Otherwise it would look like I’ve inserted a secret language.

    Love hearing about the progress of Aydan’s new book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm, seems like every husband has to try that at least once: “This (car/set of golf clubs/hard drive/whatever) sucks! It’s completely worn out, just a total piece of shit. I need a new one.” *gets new item* “…Hey, dear, why don’t you use my old one? It’s perfectly good…” (Didn’t work for Hubby the time he tried it, either.) 😉

      Back in the days of actual typewriters, I used to type 100 WPM with only four or five mistakes. These days I type about 100 mistakes per minute, but at least my Backspace key works well – I keep testing it over and over.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the progress reports!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Finally checked the progress bar. Verrry nice, sista! And isn’t the word pubic just hilarious all by itself? Always makes me laugh. And then insert it whenever one should say public, and it just gets better. Pubic library. A flood of visuals there, for sure. And of course, pubic restroom. The mind boggles. Pubic telephone? More lurid visuals ensue. And then the famous quote, “The Pubic Good Be Damned!” Well, someone else’s, maybe, but certainly not mine!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The first time I accidentally popped my trunk open and noticed the graphic on my dash, I didn’t know what it was. It’s a top view of a vehicle with all the doors ajar, but it looks like a microphone to me 🙂

    I don’t like when I get something that needs put together and it’s all symbols. Maybe it’s the sign of an illogical (i.e. artistic!!) mind, but I can imagine all kinds of interpretations — except, it seems, the right one.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. All time fave:
    1. Stick figure = MAN
    2. Stick figure with triangle = MAN WEARING A DRESS

    Years ago I worked as a mfg engineer for a company that built industrial laundry equipment. Big laundry equipment. Like a washing machine the size of a semi-trailer van. Yep, forty feet long, eight feet wide, and ten feet tall. One washing machine. And they were generally sold in pairs. Yep, big.

    So I got to go to the international trade show for that industry. As a spy (which is what everybody at trade shows goes as, other duties notwithstanding, FYI).

    I was making my way around the huge convention center, looking, taking notes, ripping off good ideas, and so forth, when I came up on a crowd surrounding the display of one of our competitors. Hm. What have they got that this many people are elbowing each other out of the way to look at? So I elbowed my way in, too. It took a few minutes to catch on, but after I got it, I was laughing as hard as everyone else.

    It was their ‘international symbols.’ Their art department had taken the usual stick figure warning labels for hazards (electric shock, pinch points, etc.) and tweaked them from ‘graphic’ to FLAMING BLOODY GRAPHIC!!! Think of lots of squish and goo and drippies and stringy stuff and explosions and splatters and, well, more squish. Gad, it was hysterical! I wheezed for days over that!

    My suggestion to emulate their wit and creativity was, er, rebuffed. Sternly. A singularly humorless place to work, it was. Singularly. It ranks near the top of the list of places I’m glad I don’t work at anymore. But I still laugh at the visual genius of those symbols.

    That competitor is still in business, by the way. The place where I worked is not. One *could* draw certain conclusions, couldn’t one…?

    Liked by 1 person

    • …or one could *draw* certain conclusions… 😉

      That’s a hilarious story – I can just imagine the artwork. But my mind is still boggling over the giant washing machine! How much water would that thing use? And how much would it WEIGH fully loaded?!? And how would you ever sort the laundry afterward? Good Lord, it’s all I can do to get three normal household loads washed, dried, sorted, folded, and put away. The thought of a semi-trailer load makes me want to run screaming. I presume it was for washing entire bolts of fabric or something…?

      Liked by 1 person

      • They’re called tunnel washers. Big spiral ‘screw’ inside. Each ‘thread’ held 75 pounds of dry dirty laundry. It rocked back and forth for 75 seconds to agitate, then the spiral turned one whole revolution and then rocked back and forth again. Continual process. Dump in more laundry. Soap and water added to the dry stuff in the first compartment, it followed the stuff for three additional turns, then the rinse cycles begin. So after a few cycles, 75 pounds dry weight of wet, clean laundry falls out the other end, is pressed to extract the excess water, then conveyor belted to one of several dryers. By the time the dryers are all full, the first one is finished drying and empty again, ready for another load of damp stuff.

        They use very little water, surprisingly. It’s recycled from the rinse end of the machine backwards to the soap end, so the only make-up water is that which goes into the dryers and is lost there. Pretty cool stuff.

        They’re sold almost exclusively to big hotels and hospitals. Think about it. Hotels use a mountain of sheets, pillowcases, towels, and washcloths every day. Hospitals do all that, too, add scrubs to the list. All stuff with no buttons or zippers. The “press” that takes the water out is a big hydraulic monster that would crush breakable stuff like buttons and zippers to dust.

        The place also made stone-washing machines for denim, too. Shipped stuff all over the world for the textile industry. Quite a place. I liked the job, but the business was run by utter morons that bled it dry. Dealing with their crap eighteen hours a day was drudgery. (They probably thought dealing with mine was, too. I’ll call it a learning experience for everyone and move on.)


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