The SpecGram Typology of
Finklebank Hartbrockle IV
As eco-collapse, mass migrations, and political instability rock (but not in an -a-bye-baby way) our world, the lone individual may find herself asking: What can one person do in the face of this insanity? Well, we have an answer! Our careful calculations show that since the emergence of semiotics, the study of signs and sign processes emerged somewhere, in, oh I don’t know, 18 something-ish, there have been a mere 74 distinct typologies of the sign as a semiotic unit. This is at least one too few!
And in any case, with semiotics needing to provide an elegant explanation for such semiotic processes as indication, designation, likeness, analogy, allegory, metonymy, metaphor, symbolism, and signification—thanks, Wikipedia!—in communication systems that range from quantifier-fronted relative clauses in human language through to earlobe extensions in indigenous communities and the semiotics of the rings of Saturn, we can’t believe that there’s not room or need for one more typology anyway. What’s more, semiotics is rightly rarely out of the news these days and staying topical is right where it’s at at SpecGram.
So, without further ado, here, with the help of consultant semiotician, Finklebank Hartbrockle IV, semiotician to the stars, is the all new SpecGram typology of the semiotic sign.
These are signs which are prototypically interpreted (and potentially intended) as cheeky. They include the human raspberry blow, orthographised as ‘Bpbpblllllth’, skimpy bikinis (or in the Victorian era, ankle length heavy dresses), all jokes except ironic ones (see below) and sidelong glances with one raised eyebrow. They may also include literally cheeky signs such as blowing out one’s cheeks in exasperation or, of course, mooning.
An archetype here is the piano keyboard. Other black-and-white signs include the use of black-and-white in an otherwise colour film and signs which admit of only one interpretation (e.g., ‘Please, please, please, please start making some kind of sense’ when addressed to a professor of philosophy of language). These should not be confused, of course, with black signs (like dark clouds, dark feathered owls, dark scowls, monastic cowls, dark fowls and dangerous fouls) or white signs like clouds, flags of surrender, Doves of Peace or sheep (which are not black).
Finklebank Hartbrockle IV Signs
There is only one of these: Finklebank Hartbrockle IV. As semiotician to the stars, Finklebank is able to decode any sign or sign system for high-net-worth individuals (e.g., selecting from menus in exclusive restaurants; deciding which expensive gift to buy for your daughter; or what the all-pervading sense of meaninglessness and existential disorientation means, despite your material success and ownership of two private planes).
This category covers the paraphernalia of royal houses: orbs and sceptres are well-known examples but, depending on cultural context, other regal signs may include ostentatious marriages in very old buildings at the taxpayers’ expense, uplifting, inspirational, highly relevant and readily applicable Christmas messages, and shooting certain arbitrary categories of fauna in Scotland.
Signs about signs include the sign ‘sign’, the sign ‘signification’ and phrases such as ‘the meaning of meaning’ and ‘semiosis-bearing unit of meaning potential’. If you’re clever enough, you can put these signs together such that a) no-one knows what you’re saying but you get the professorship anyway and b) a meta-meta-signic semiosis slowly emerges, paradoxically out of the meaninglessness of the meta-signic level.
Si / Sigh / Psi Signs
When Simon says, this means the kids are playing happily for a bit and you can relax. But when Si sighs, this can mean anything from Simon is tired, frustrated or just deeply content. It depends on the Simon and the context of sighing. When Si psis, you’ve got a novelty party trick if not a real-life X-Man on your hands. And that, of course, means money.
Irony is a subtle and complex area of semiotics in which inversion of meaning expectation creates cognitive shocks with an emotional resonance. Iron itself is fairly unsubtle and ironing isn’t that complex. Which is kind of ironic. The Iron Man movie series was also neither subtle not complex—unless it was an ironic comment on superhero movies. Which it wasn’t.
Fittingly, we end with final signs. These include the full-stop and death. The interpretation of death remains controversial except to the individual who has died.