Wednesday, April 25, 2018

SearchResearch Challenge (4/25/18): What do these symbols mean?

Symbols are supposed to be easy.  

The idea, after all, is that a symbol works across languages and let you glance at it, immediately understand what it means, in order to rapidly understand what's going on.  
In general, it's good to be able to know what the symbols mean (in case you really need to take action).  It's good to know that this means biohazard:  

But in my experience, I see all KINDS of symbols that I don't understand.  So, here are a few symbols I've found in my travels this past week.  Can you tell me what they mean?  I don't know if they're important or not... which kind of defeats the purpose!  

1.  This blue cross (it really IS blue) with a stick and a snake that I found on an inside wall:  What does it mean?  Where would you normally see this?  How important is this to me?  Here's a photo I found in a building:  

2.  Here's another symbol--a box with arrow.  The only clue I have about this is that it was in a parking lot... on the ground, shown on top of a plastic traffic dot that's cemented to the ground.  What does this mean? 

3.  And lastly, a symbol that I've found on the side of a few walls in the city.  What could this possibly mean? 

As always, tell us HOW you found out the meaning of each.  Are they important symbols?  (Meaning, do *I* need to know about them in the course of my daily life?)  

Search on!  


  1. For the bottom sign with the red circle, I did a reverse image search. I found a page in French that was asking a similar question (on a blog). They had encountered the sign in Montreal. I used Google Translate and initially followed a trail indicating it had to do with automatic sprinkler shut off. I searched Google Images with an assortment of terminology. In the results, I saw a sign for Siamese Connection which matched another repeated sign I was seeing with two connections for fire hoses. I searched Siamese Connection and found a result for CSA Signage Standards (by McGill Information Systems Resources).

    1. Hi Jeff -- Can you tell me which country you're in ? Are you based in Canada? (Thanks.)

  2. I was familiar with the blue "star" with the snake wrapped around the staff. I knew it was related to hospitals or medical services. I searched [hospital snake staff logo] in a Google Image search. There were several results featuring the snake but not all had the star. I opted for a result from Slate that was asking the same question - what is it? According to a National Elevator Industry safety coordinator, it indicates that the elevator is large enough for a stretcher.

  3. the parking lot cap symbol is proving vexing… perhaps it is used to show how much rubber will come off Canadian snow tyres?
    …some sort of cap for a street light connection? a directional indicator? look forward to what others reveal… is the reflective tape part of the answer?
    The Star of Life represents emergency medical services such as ambulances.
    [EMT Insignia]
    from here:
    Ohio jewelry store
     IOS 7 interface?
    Montreal - should have ;-P
    they are even confused in Montreal
    Siamese terminal - yours for $9.34
    a list
    I even resorted to wearing this while searching, to no avail…
    Mr. Nelson

    1. The parking lot symbol is infuriating. After some basic image manipulation (clipping, stenciling and filling), and uploading to Google Image Search, I got an exact match but not in context: OttoQ logo. It is also similar to the "exit to app" icon, found in Material UI, or to one general "download" symbol found in icon banks like Flaticon.

    2. LMV - nice digging to find the OttoQ logo - it's a mystery - I was left thinking some sort of obscure manufactures logo
      or an installation direction for attaching it to an anchor? ⍇ ⍃ ⎆
      seems to have been run over a number of times… Dan may have us all on pins & needles awaiting his explanation (& providing him much glee?)

    3. Nice finding LMV!

      With your finding, searched ["ottoq" symbol] and clicked in the image.

      Removed from the app store and for what I found with ["ottoq" inc], out of business This was their function:"Parking. Delightful.

      OttoQ enables drivers to simply "find and park" in real -time, using your iPhone""

    4. super sleuth job Ramón & LMV - think you two sorted it out - it's a sensor, not a marker… with the OttoQ logo
      Dan might be the only person who has EVER photographed that specific 'beast' in the wild…
      OttoQ app - Z.Ewing, the designer
      he does tee design too
      O Q dashboard
      for Android Update :November 15, 2017, but removed from the app store
      something like this
      occupancy sensor
      wave of the future
      typical hardware/install
      fwiw - but no OttoQ example…
      a SERP [parking space sensor examples design]

    5. Thanks for the links, Remmij. Very interesting this parking space sensors. I think some apps already working. And yes, I agree with you. Dr. Russell's photo is the only one with a photo like that. Not even Google had one before the Challenge. Luis is the one that did the great job of finding the answer. I just got his work and added a word.

    6. …sometimes not even an app can solve the dilemma… parking in the real world
      yep, they seem to work great – there's a ⅓ of an open space…

    7. Very well done, remmij! And great job in being persistent and delving deeper, Ramón.

      The reason I quit, in spite of having found an exact match, is that I am "pretty sure" I have seen this symbol before, and it couldn't be the OttoQ one. And that's what I found, and still find, infuriating. Now, either a) I have never seen it before, or b) OttoQ operates in Portugal, or c) this is some generic parking symbol. In the latter case, which I still believe to be the most likely, it's double infuriating that I can't find any matching images. Something that further sticks me stubbornly to this hypothesis of some very similar generic parking symbol: the logo for the Canadian Parking Association (linked above by remmij, "wave of the future") is a nice stylised car parking among 5 others but can also be interpreted as a version of OttoQ logo / hypothetic primordial parking icon.

    8. I know of an infallible way of finding out if the OttoQ icon is based on some generic symbol or not: just send a message to Zack Ewing asking. I'm not doing it though, because I believe Dan Russell knows the answer. :)

  4. Hello Dr. Russell and everyone.

    Remmij, I just saw this SRS Challenge and your comment to my comment. I'll read it later. Thanks for adding new knowledge and links.

    For this Challenge:

    1. This blue cross (it really IS blue) with a stick and a snake that I found on an inside wall: What does it mean? Where would you normally see this? How important is this to me?

    The stick and the snake is worldwide known as related to medicine. So my first thoughts are related to that. Also decided to Search by Image

    Wikipedia: Emergency medical services in the Netherlands links to

    Star of Life From there: “Traditionally in the United States the logo was used as a stamp of authentication or certification for ambulances, paramedics or other EMS personnel. Internationally, it is a symbol that represents emergency medical services units and personnel.”

    [star of life]

    each bar on the "Star of Life" represents one of six EMS functions. The functions include: and links to NHTSA "Star of Life" Manual

    Answer: Medical Services.

    3. And lastly, a symbol that I've found on the side of a few walls in the city. What could this possibly mean?

    Searched by image the photo you provided. And says: “borne siamoise”

    Used Google Translate

    CT-27 fire alarm sign for double firefighter (Siamese terminal or valve)
    Fire and emergency signage.
    It is used in Quebec, Canada. I’m trying to find more about the symbol and where else is used

    [osha fire symbols]

    OSHA quick card. Also available in Spanish

    [firefighter valve pictogram] on Images shows other symbols

    Answer: Siamese valve for fire fighting

  5. 1. Image finds it is Ambulance logo

    2. Image again finds cat eye which with more clicking becomes 'road stud' THe reflective bit can be seen on the lower edge (if thats what it is)

    3. Its a siamese connection for fire department. IMage search worked nicely. Finds on pinterest: Siamese Connection - Freestanding. Used to add water pressure to a building sprinkler system from a pumper truck. | Field Guide for Utilities | Pinterest
    However, says it is NOT that at all. It signals a Fire Dept Connection, FDC. Water can be added at this point which feeds a sprinkler system where little to no water exists in the system. The fire johnnies can add water via this fitting.

  6. recalling that Dan had been on the road in Canada, thought maybe he had experienced the International symbol hotel guests are familiar with… room service, or not… (the imgur post)
    Canadian symbol?

  7. Ahh, I hoped the last one meant 'barbecue facilities"...
    Thanks to Remmij for pointing me towards Botts' dots.

  8. Replies
    1. fwiw - a new road symbol
      close up - smartphone zombies, or smombies - prank

      enigmatic pictograms 2011
      less is more
      "I had the intuition that this pictogram was related to the presence of a water pipe.So I communicated with my brother-in-law (it's practical family), who is Head of the Inspection and Construction Division, at the Engineering Department of the City of Chateauguay. He tells us that, generally, this pictogram is installed on a building to indicate the presence of "Siamese catches". These outlets allow connection to the fire truck, in order to increase the water pressure of the automatic sprinkler system of the building, during a fire."

  9. There parking lot thingy: I believe it to be a sensor that detects if a parking slot is occupied or not. See this page about this sort of thing:

  10. ☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣☣ from the character viewer…
    The biohazard symbol was developed by the Dow Chemical Company in 1966 for their containment products. According to Charles Baldwin, an environmental-health engineer who contributed to its development: "We wanted something that was memorable but meaningless, so we could educate people as to what it means.""
    from the waybackmachine - internet archive

  11. I did a reverse image search with the first and I did found Wikipedia result in Russian language, it say is a Chemical hazard sign but the proper image indicates Biological hazard sign.

  12. meanwhile…
    a new "Roger Fenton" type photo controversy… is it real, what is real, how real is real?…
    disturbing grand title winner…
    a refresher on Fenton —
    Fenton @ the Getty
    The Bronx Documentary Center (BDC)
    150 years of examples

  13. Anne and Deb here. The first one was pretty easy we both knew it was a medical symbol.Did a search for blue symbol with snake and first result was for Wikipedia article on the Star of Life symbol. It clearly explained the symbol which is used in the US for emergency medical services.
    Now on to question 2!

  14. Image 2 completely stumped Anne and me. Did reverse image search tried to get location data by putting in exif viewer but nothing. We read answers and don't think we would have found this one! Great job those of you who figured it out!

  15. Symbol 3 was tough but we finally found an answer on reddit! not the most authoritative but seems to clearly explain what it is. Tried to search further using terms standpipe locator symbol Canada OR montreal and didn't come up with any hits. We got to the reddit answer by first loading picture in reverse image search. Found several responses that linked back to SearchResearch but on second page came to several results in French Found the symbol on these pages and saw the words siammese Borne RBS so used those in our search symbol for borne siamese connection RBS and came up with no further info. Added in montreal and came up with the reddit post. Think we saw Montreal in someone's answer or else that was just luck because page with the image was from Canada.
    And just as an fyi because librarians are good for getting information we found out that a black ring is the sign you are a swinger. How does that relate to this search? in desperation we just typed in google symbol red circle straight line 2 black rings and that was one of the results. Couldn't not share what could be helpful or useful info!
    This was a very difficult challenge!

    1. Thanks for the helpful and useful info. I knew the black ring as a symbol for asexuality. Now I wonder what might happen if an asexual person enters a swinging club with the black ring on their finger. "I'll scratch your SO's back, you'll scratch mine"?

  16. I have just found another way of dealing with questions like these, that might have been useful for the hard parking symbol: there's a subreddit dedicated to people posting photos and ask what that is, and other people answering. Many queries get answered this way apparently (such posts are marked SOLVED).