Missing Symbols

Here is a list of important English words without pre-established, unambiguous symbols that come readily to mind. Some could possibly be assembled out of other glyphs (remove = re- + move?), but that might prove too unwieldy on a large scale. For the most part, these concepts are so central to human activity that they require a simple core glyph. If we compare language to chemistry, then these words are more like atoms than molecules. Most of them can't be broken down into smaller concepts.

Because there is no obvious symbol for, say, throw, it might be difficult to build words that are based on throw, such as "overthrow" and "throw up". This would also included words based on the Latin "jacere" (eject, reject, conjecture, projectile) and the Greek "ballein" (diabolical, hyperbole, problem, symbol)

This then is the answer to one of the questions that I had on my mind when I began this project: "Is there a already a graphic symbol for every major word or concept in our society?" The answer is "no".

Words without Obvious Icons:

Of course, we can probably come up with some easy, obvious pictures to illustrate some of these words. We could use stick figures to illustrate specific movements, or we could nudge some closely related symbols into these empty slots, but (as I've said before) the whole point of this language is to study the symbolism that already exists in our culture, not to show how clever I am by inventing at new signs and symbols. That said, see how clever I am at inventing new signs and symbols for these missing concepts.

Missing Word Proposed Symbol Comment
have When I drew this sign with the knuckles up, it looked too much like a threat, so I turned it knuckles down.
make Actually, a hammer frequently appears as an icon in many contexts already -- probably too many for clarity. Depending on where you see it, it can mean work, urban worker, construction worker, carpentry, make, fix, build, and, of course, hammer. Let's split the symbolism among two common meanings, tilting left will mean make, while tilting right will mean work. I've drawn it here as a carpenter's hammer, rather than, say, as a blacksmith's hammer, but that's just me.
ordinal numbers Granted, this is purely English, and alphabetic to boot, so it really isn't a symbol. But, in English, some 70% of all numerals can be turned into shorthand ordinals by attaching these two letters. We might as well use it.
family In Liungman's Dictionary of Symbols, he depicts a collection of symbols called the "family system", but he doesn't give it any context, nor have I found it anywhere else, so I'm reluctant to use it. Instead, I've created a bunch of glyphs for family relationships by using pieces of a hypothetic family tree.
blood Actually, anyone who's ever been in a blood drive knows that there is a common symbol for blood -- a red droplet. Our problem here is that we don't have red at our disposal (I had a similar problem drawing a rose). Plan B was to turn to the alchemists for help. After all, you'd think they would have already invented a symbol for one of the four humors, but no. Plan C was to remember that the red stripe on a barber pole indicated blood, but I couldn't figure out a way to apply that. In the end, I was forced to draw the droplet, but to show its redness by either filling it in, or using heraldric hatching.
sacred No particular reason, except that I already have the triquetra handy, and it's already used as a holy trinity symbol without being too overdone or obvious.

This symbol means not in symbolic logic, and I've been using it that way in combination with other logical symbols, but is a more common and obvious symbol of negation. We could shift over to the prepositions, making mean "sex without love" rather than "sex, not love"

Semantically, not is very similar to without. To "not [verb]" is pretty much the same as being "without [equivalent noun]". If you do not doubt/sleep/hope, then you are without doubt/sleep/hope.

spots These are easy to show, but hard to draw. Spots and dots end up looking the same. Stripes and lines endup looking the same.

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Last updated October 2003

Copyright © 2003 Matthew White