What Is a Stop Sign and What Does It Mean?

Stop signs are everywhere. They’re in our neighborhoods, on our street corners, and under our cars. But what do they mean? Who are they talking to?

The easiest way to answer these questions is to examine the stop sign itself. The stop sign is easily identifiable by several key features: its shape, its color, and its metallurgical composition.

What Shape Is a Stop Sign?

The stop sign has an octagon shape, meaning it has eight arms. The unique shape creates a terrifying silhouette people can identify whether they’re pulling up to or running away from the sign. In this sense, the octagon’s design taps into a sort of nostalgia or familiarity, like the snarl from a neighbor’s dog that heralds every pedestrian or the shadow of a schoolyard bully making his rounds.

Fig 1. The 11 symmetries of the regular octagon
Fig. 2. The Kabbalah Tree of Life

The sign’s shape also has mystical overtones. Notice the arrangement of the octagon’s 11 symmetries (see Fig. A). Now compare that to the arrangement of the Sephiroth in the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life (Fig. 2). The similarity raises several interesting questions. Were the mystical Jews trying to tell us something about stop signs, or are stop signs trying to tell us something about God?

What Color Is a Stop Sign?

If the sign’s shape evokes God or mysticism, its color returns the sign to more primitive connotations. The red warns us — as that’s how Nature often employs the color red — unless you’re colorblind, and then you drive into oncoming traffic, removing your inferior genes from the pool. For the rest of us, we’re on alert. But for what? Red in nature doesn’t just forewarn us of danger but also of sex and fast cars. The crimson buttocks of a baboon, the pink swollen vagina of the chimpanzee, and the ginger boobs of the orangutan all demonstrate Nature’s use of color to stimulate us. Therefore, the stop sign’s color acts as both a warning and an enticement

What Does a Stop Sign Say?

Fig 3. “Shtupp” in Yiddish

Finally, we arrive at the text, perhaps the most ambiguous element of the stop sign (fig. 3). Centered over the red background, the eponymous word “stop” is written in Highway Gothic using just four of the twenty-six letters from the English alphabet. While we owe the alphabet to the lost civilization of the Latins, ironically the word “stop” derives from the Yiddish “shtupp,” meaning to stop (e.g. “I’m going to shtupp that puppy walking into the street.”). Sadly, the linguistic avenues for interpreting the stop sign end here.

Who Is the Stop Sign For?

What’s most interesting about the stop sign, as whole, are its indeterminates. Is the sign a warning? A command? Is it both, which would make it a threat (a Kabba-fascist reading of the sign might support this interpretation)? To understand the sign’s intent, we must first determine its audience.

Context tell us that the sign’s most obvious audience would be drivers. But what if the context changes? Unlike a film, a book, or a government edited news report, stop signs have nothing to limit their audience except the physical limitations to perceive it (like distance, cataracts, more interesting signs) and the cognitive impediments to understanding it (like preferring cable news over print journalism). Yet despite such a seemingly large audience pool, of which most people including myself belong, we still struggle with determining the significance of the stop sign.

A squirrel might respond to the color and shape of the stop sign just as I would, and neither of us together or alone could say for certain whether the sign spoke to him or me, so can we truly say the squirrel understands the sign less than I? Doubtful. Thus we must conclude that within the class of things we call an audience, we should include all creatures who perceive the sign’s shape, its color, and its text and who are within the perceiving range of their particular senses. However, even this classification of audience is too narrow because it presumes that the sign can only be perceived with physical sense from a distance that conforms with the known properties of the physical world. Unfortunately, this classification then omits the various remote viewers, spirit walkers, fantasists, and dream tourists who might perceive the sign on the immaterial plane.

Occam’s Razor tells us that while astral travelers seemingly have all of the capabilities, material and immaterial, to perceive and comprehend the sign, they alone can’t be the sign’s audience; There just aren’t enough of them to warrant the expense or the real estate that could be better used for old mattresses, prostitutes, and the homeless. Here we must analyze the most crucial yet least examined assumptions about stop signs. Most people suppose that the billions of stop signs around the world are meant for the billions of drivers around the world. However, we know from the books of Bill O’Reilly that not everything mass produced is consumed by the masses, no matter how many warehouses you fill with pulp.

What Does a Stop Sign Mean?

Suppose that instead of trying to reach billions everywhere, you were trying to communicate with someone very hard to find who could be literally anywhere. Because this someone could be in multiple locations, so you might put out a sign big enough to be seen from those locations. However, if the distance between locations was really large, say between Jerusalem and the Ganges, you’d need a sign that would far exceed our engineering capabilities. A better solution might be to construct lots of smaller signs, with a simple message, that could be placed in each location — just in case. In such a case, the driver is the stop sign’s least suitable audience. The stop sign’s pervasiveness and distribution argue that its audience class must consist of those capable of being anywhere and everywhere with the ability to comprehend the sign. This is a rather small audience with a member of one.

While many have suspected the stop sign is an unambiguous message to drivers to stop their cars, it’s now clear that these people are idiots. The evidence as presented above points us into only one direction to understanding the stop sign. Through its shape, color, text, number and distribution the stop sign clearly targets Martin Kukk, an Estonian hacker and compulsive masturbator, infamous for gaining control of the world’s traffic cameras. The stop sign’s message is now clear:

Martin, listen to the signs before it’s too late.

Originally published at bionicprose.com on August 4, 2016.