What exactly is a 🚫 called?
March 9, 2024 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Circles and Slashes. We see these everywhere. Where did they come from? And what do you call it? Designed by committee. Really unpopular in North America, until a movie legitimized it with an incorrectly drawn example. It’s everywhere telling us what not to do.
posted by njohnson23 (28 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Well, now i really want to read The Development and Evaluation of Effective Symbol Signs, which I found here
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:17 AM on March 9 [10 favorites]

Also, the circle slash is called" prohibition" which works for me
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:19 AM on March 9

I know it as the 'prohibitory symbol,' but that's because I spent too many years as an Apple hardware tech, and that's what they call it.

Interesting history behind it though.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:20 AM on March 9 [5 favorites]

I like to think the slash is taken from the letter N which combined with the circle is like a giant NO compressed into one character.

The Ghostbusters logo may have been deliberately reversed so that large movie posters in city centres don't get confused for actual traffic signs.
posted by Lanark at 10:32 AM on March 9 [10 favorites]

It's funny that the ISO official goes from left to right. That feels unnatural to me when I hand-draw it as a right handed person.

The colored Emoji used in this post is Unicode U+1F6AB. Officially NO ENTRY but sometimes called the Prohibited Emoji. There's at least four options for this concept in Unicode: Somewhere someone knows the exact history of why each one of these has been added over the years. The very first form combines with other characters so you can overlay it on top of anything. (In theory, in practice it doesn't seem to work very well.)
posted by Nelson at 10:34 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]

Here is a recreation of a “no parking” road sign in Germany, circa 1929:
And here is an updated version of said sign, circa 1937:
Hey, that’s the symbol we’re looking for! So, something must have happened in the meantime, right?

So the "No Parking" Symbol was invented by Parking Nazis?
posted by pwnguin at 10:58 AM on March 9 [5 favorites]

I love the badass on the TTC No Loitering sign, loitering so hard they stepped through the "NO" symbol so they could loiter on it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:58 AM on March 9 [15 favorites]

I just call it the "NOT!!" a la 90s Wayne's World.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:18 AM on March 9

🚫 (*)

*Thanks Nelson!
posted by y2karl at 11:33 AM on March 9

It’s the vietat-o.
posted by jimfl at 11:40 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

Wait, it s not the "interdiction" symbol?

This symbol became the “interdiction” symbol, after a French word for prohibition

And the French word for interdiction is, interdiction.

So, everyone in 1937 just hated France or something?

Or, is the difference between "Prohibition" and "interdiction" a French sense of timing?

They really are "Ghost Interdictors" and less "Ghost Prohibitors"
posted by eustatic at 12:02 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]

I once saw it referred to as a “bar sinister,” and have called the symbol that since, but (pushes up glasses) this is technically incorrect.

A “bar sinister” is an inaccurate popularization of a top right to bottom left slash (from viewer perspective, not shield-bearer) in English heraldry. Sinister here in the bigoted anti-left-handed / bastard children sense. Inaccurate because in English heraldry a “bar” is a flat horizontal line and a diagonal slash in the opposite, non-bastard-indicating sense is a “bend.” But the French call it barre and some old English dude misspelled it. The accurate term for the bastardry-indicating slash would be “bend sinister,” which doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well.

While sinister is used as a modifier of bend, if you want to positively affirm the upper left to lower right directionality you could say “bend dexter” or even “bendlet dexter” to indicate a thin line.

So if you love being technically correct (the best kind) you can call it a bendlet dexter, but absolutely nobody will know what you’re talking about unless they’ve been reading this Wikipedia page.
posted by Ryvar at 2:49 PM on March 9 [6 favorites]

Bar Sinister? I know it, it's on Pico.
posted by Flashman at 4:27 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

> The crossed-out circle reflects a rare success story for the design-by-committee crew

"Design by committee = bad" is a common folk wisdom but there are many of examples where groups of experts came up with something that works well.

Design by committee got us to the Moon.
posted by donio at 4:34 PM on March 9 [7 favorites]

It also blew up Challenger.
posted by pwnguin at 7:50 PM on March 9

Wait, you're saying there was a committee decision to do that??
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:55 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

Well, Challenger launching at below freezing temps was a conference call, where engineering objections were overruled. It's obviously more complicated than that, just as getting to the Moon was.
posted by pwnguin at 11:23 PM on March 9 [4 favorites]

A discussion of symbol development, specifically the 1972 Dreyfuss’s Symbol Sourcebook, is one of the two current exhibitions at the Cooper Hewitt in NYC. I happened to go today. There were several copies of that book to flip through and it is subtly weird in a way that's hard to describe. Like aliens writing about earth. Also Buckminster Fuller wrote an intro.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:22 AM on March 10

It's the "No" sign.
posted by rhizome at 3:03 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Not enough discussion of just the red circle by itself, which often means "prohibited" and if you then add a slash it still means prohibited?

That to me seems like an enormous logical flaw in all this.
posted by vacapinta at 3:44 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

"uh oh, what did I just pass..."
posted by sammyo at 6:15 AM on March 10

The most confusing common road sign I've ever encountered is in France, the yellow squares. Or more often a yellow square with a slash across it from upper right to lower left. "No more yellow squares". WTF?

Turns out the yellow square means you have the right of way. And "no more yellow squares" means you no longer do. A useful sign to know about if you're driving on back roads in France and are a little confused about priorité à droite.

The slash goes the other so I guess this is different from the prohibition sign we indicate. Bend sinister for "no more", not bend dexter for "forbidden".
posted by Nelson at 8:09 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]

I heard this called a “buster” recently and it seemed appropriate.
posted by kpmcguire at 8:46 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Interesting that France has a normal STOP sign, while Quebec has an Arrete sign
posted by yyz at 11:40 AM on March 10

Spain also has STOP signs (EU standard?), but despite being a US colony, here in Puerto Rico they say PARE.
posted by mubba at 12:10 PM on March 10

In high school I knew a guy who would write all over the place something like NDA for "No Dorks Allowed" (actually something more offensive about a different group) with a circle-slash crossing out the NDA.

I told him, so you're against the people who say "No Dorks Allowed?" Your message is dorks are welcome? But he seemed unable to understand what I was even saying.
posted by straight at 12:52 PM on March 10

It's the "No" sign.
Actually, I think it's the "No sign". This is what I've always thought it was, anyway.
posted by dg at 4:54 PM on March 10

On the original No Parking example, I’m getting design heebie-jeebies from the weirdly tall P, the placement of the P, and the thinness of the slash. It’s like a slightly crooked picture and I can’t even look at it !
posted by caviar2d2 at 3:10 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]

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