I have a confession to make. I steal magazines. Oh, not the brand new ones fresh off the rack. No, I steal from waiting rooms: dentists, oil changes, all over town. Now, in my own defense I will say that generally speaking these magazines are a minimum of 2 years out of date, and some waiting rooms have raggedly piles that go back even further. But it never fails; I always find one that’s just sitting there waiting for me, with some interesting and pertinent factoid that I would otherwise have missed if I hadn’t happened to be right there on that day and that time. It’s a perfect example of serendipity. Lately, however (in fact, ever since My Name Is Earl made it’s TV debut) I switched from stealing and keeping old mags to stealing, photocopying the articles, and returning them. Never hurts to keep an eye on one’s karma, eh what.
So this morning, I just happened to need to see someone at my bank who was not a teller, but had an office room. And while I was seated, waiting, a Reader’s Digest on a nearby table just happened to catch my eye. The cover article showed a hippie-ish looking woman holding a birthday-type cake with a big peace sign on it. The caption read, “The iconic symbol turns 50 this spring.” A quick check of the date of the issue: May 2008. Oh good, it’s not too late; we haven’t missed it. Then it occurred to me in a sudden flash of insight that perhaps the release date of the new Ben & Jerry’s flavor (see previous post) is no fluke. Perhaps it was intentional! What goes better than birthday cake than ice cream?! I think I may be on to something here, my friends.
It seems the symbol known literally around the world as the “Peace Sign” was invented in 1958 (well before the Summer of Love etc.) by a British graphic artist named Gerald Holtom, who was also a conscientious objector. There was a growing movement in Britain at the time to stop the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Lots of different groups were joining together in protest, and they needed a symbol or logo that would be instantly recognizable. So Holtom designed a combination of the two semaphore signals for the letters “N” and “D” for “Nuclear Disarmament” and placed it in the circle of life. Maybe you already knew this, but it was a real revelation to me. I remember a kind of urban legend floating around back in the 60s, that the symbol stood for “Ban the Bomb” since but nobody I knew was fluent in semaphore, we weren’t quite sure how it all came together. Now, 50 years later – the answer!
If you’re interested, either pick up (and pay for!) a copy of Reader’s Digest or buy the book the article was excerpted from, “Peace: 50 Years of Protest” by Barry Miles. I think it sounds like a very interesting read. Speaking of, I mustn't forget to take that "hot" mag back to the bank...
Photo of garlic peace sign from Wikipedia Commons