Symbols are becoming much more common these days, under the guise that they provide an international means of communicating basic information.
How useful do you feel that symbols really are though? A few basic symbols are pretty obvious, but beyond that, their meaning might be clear only to someone who has been taught that meaning. It's easy for somebody who has grown up with a certain symbol to believe that its meaning is obvious to the whole world.
Here's a non-electrical example of some road signs:
O.K., now all of you in Continental Europe will understand this combination of road-signs perfectly.
But what about our North American friends? Can you name all the messages being given by this assortment of signs in France?
[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 01-01-2003).]
C-H said: "Unlike many other signs, you aren't expected to understand these signs intuitively."
I don't know. The top left one is pretty much international in the non-verbiage (American influenced) parts of the world. Ah, but looking at it closely there's something not quite clear near the bottom of the white part of the disk. That could be the fly in my ointment!
I know the top one, and think I remember the bottom one but (having an unfair advantage) will remain silent for now.
The one that really gets me though is the two white horizontal bars on the left hand pole. New one on me .
I could never quite get the ones that say 'Rappel' under the speed or whatever.
It's the 'priorité a droit’ rule however that nearly killed me taking a casual bicycle around a French village on a family camping trip, and I know there is a connection here above. Having a car come screaming out of a side street without stopping as I was merrily cycling down the main street was a heart-stopping (nearly permanently) moment!
"WRONG WAY" signs are found on expressway ramps in the States as well. I've often wondered how and when Ireland came to adopt the American/Australian style yellow diamonds for warnings. Personally, I prefer them to the British/Continental red-bordered triangles, as they show up better.
It's true that one needs to study road-signs for a drivers license, but throughout practically all of the Western world a license from one country allows one to drive as a visitor in another.
Yes, Hutch, the top left sign in the red circle is what you think it is; the patch at the bottom must have been a peeled off sticker, or something like that. British drivers won't have any trouble with that particular sign, but I'd bet that at least 90% have no idea what the yellow/white diamond means.
Yes, the yellow/white diamond in France is the standard European "priority road" sign, meaning that you have right of way on the thru-road unless posted signs say otherwise.
For Americans who are now totally lost ("But isn't that normal?"), it links up with Hutch's comments about priorité a droit. In the absence of a priority sign, you have to yield to anything approaching from the right in France. Yes, even if you are on a main street and the turning to your right is a tiny side alley, traffic emerging from it has right of way. The priority sign here (used extensively around Europe but unknown in the U.K.) means that you have right of way and that side roads will have stop or yield signs. Strange to us in Anglo-Saxon countries where the straight ahead route normally has right of way, but that's the way they did it! There's an "end of priority" sign which is similar, but with a thick black bar crossed diagonally through it, which indicates that you once again have to yield to the right.
The top left sign means "no passing." A similar sign exists in Britain, except that the red and black cars aee the other way around.
The D562 plate is just a highway route number.
As for the two horizontal bars below the town name sign, I thought they were just spares left from a sign which had been removed, but I've received an e-mail suggestion that they might be a sign for military operations. It doesn't matter if nobody else even recognizes these bars as a sign in this case of course, but it just goes to show how obscure some signs can be!
C-H, yes the French "RAPPEL" plate under a sign just means that it's a reminder of a previously posted sign, most usually a speed limit. The RAPPEL always seems superfluous to me. Over here we just have a repeat of the speed limit sign in a slightly smaller version.
Oh, by the way, there is one other message hidden in this array of signs that nobody else has mentioned yet. And as a driver in France, you are supposed to know it! Any guesses?
(P.S. I don't mean the blue "keep right" sign on the island.)
[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 01-03-2003).]
I'm not sure exactly but I imagine it's to do with the town name sign surrounded by the red border, i.e. one is entering a municipal area. When you leave a French town/village the name is displayed again but with a diagonal red line through it. I assume that any obligation the driver was under in the municipal area is now removed. Just a guess.
BTW one thing I do enjoy about French road signs in general is their height. In France they are short and at drivers’ eye level rather than high up a pole. Some peculiarities though. On direction signs in a town at a junction one is presented with a destination town (or obscure village) and ‘Autre Routes’. So if the town name means nothing to you, you keep following ‘Other Routes’ until you have circumnavigated the town centre and ended up back where you started. It’s then time to plumb for a name or look for some obscure village en route to your destination.
Tying this thread back to things electrical though, Paul made a comment regarding the diamond as opposed to the triangle for warnings on roads – and it was interesting to see that Ireland has chosen to follow the North American/Australian standard rather than the European one. When one sees danger/warning signs on equipment (including electrical) in the US it is on a triangle and instruction/computer manuals draw attention to potential problems by using a triangle as well – not a diamond.
For interest, South Africa used the European style triangles, circles, etc. with their red borders but inside the background was dark blue with the numbers/symbols/figures etc. in white. In the last 10 years the signs have changed to the standard European convention of black on white in a read border. Compulsion signs/minimum speeds are in white on a solid blue circle.
A sign that cased me great amusement at the time (1982) was in Zimbabwe on the road to Kariba Dam by the Zambian border. It was in two parts – a red triangle with solid yellow centre above a yellow square with the picture of a huge trumpeting elephant on it. We joked about it but then found ourselves weaving around the largest piles of dung that I have ever seen on a highway!