Of Knots, Cigars and Oil Cans

by Glenn R. Geist

You know, we really need to ease up on what symbols “mean.” To paraphrase Freud, not only is a cigar sometimes only a cigar, but a noose is only a knot and the OK hand gesture has also meant OK for far longer than you know.

Any symbol of course, has meaning only in the mind of the beholder. Take the Swastika for instance, as in Sanskrit it literally means the sign of well being. Your interpretation and mine will doubtless vary.

Nothing is permanent, grasshopper. As a seasonal creature, you should know that. Are you old enough to remember Kendall Oil? Of course you do because they still make it and have since 1881. Their logo has been that OK hand thing since then although it seems to get smaller all the time. Maybe they’ll have to kill it now in these days of righteous rage. Does it mean the oil is OK, or is it really indicating the number two because Kendall was originally “the two thousand mile oil?”

You’re certainly old enough to remember Halloween lawns decorated with hanged effigies. I only found out as an adult that this was “a symbol” too. Perhaps that will be the end of the practice, although you still see it. Not everyone knows it’s a symbol of lynching. Not every suburban lawn lies in front of a racist home.  One man’s traditional “spooky’ is the other man’s racism, bless our wokey hearts.

Anyway the Chicago Cubs find that bit of hand jive “egregious and unacceptable” and some sorry ass dude has now been banned from Wrigley Field for life for using the symbol on camera. A good call for a foul ball as far as I’m concerned, but call the pitcher a Mother F*gger? That’s different and it’s  OK (see what I did there?)

Now of course it’s likely the man wasn’t promoting oil products.  I’m not saying he’s not arsehole enough to think white supremacy is cool or funny, but can’t we please recognize that like spoken and written language, the language of hands and flags and knots and gestures change?   What was the “Victory Sign” to Churchill is now called the Peace Sign and sometimes an oil can has nothing more than oil in it. Just as with flags and patriotism, the symbol is in the mind of the viewer and that may be a lot different from one mind to another and subject to change without notice. So when I give you the finger for being certain about a symbol, be assured I’m only saluting your observation, OK?

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Posted by on May 12, 2019. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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8 Responses to Of Knots, Cigars and Oil Cans

  1. Glenn Geist Reply

    May 12, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Just occurred to me it’s also the Cub Scout salute.

    • jess Reply

      May 12, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      Th ok thing is the scout salute? I thought that was three fingers. I am off to the googles like a googleninja. I’m in a mood, woke up late for something and chaos has reigned since.

      • jess Reply

        May 12, 2019 at 1:04 pm

        Jut looked quickly, it’s 3 fingers for the scouts. I knew I wasn’t seeing thing because my cousins would salute me and tell me to read between the lines of their salutes. They were not good scouts at all, being all respectful to their elders and betters 🙂

  2. Michael John Scott Reply

    May 12, 2019 at 10:35 am

    You are right! I wonder when someone will get around to be ‘insulted’ by it?

  3. Tall Stacey Reply

    May 12, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Well Glenn, first I enjoyed your article, and learned quite a bit- I didn’t know that was a sign of white power, or even that the expulsion had happened. Your article caused me to research a few things, Thank you, it is a bad day that I don’t learn something.

    One was that the remains of a 1970 fire destroyed refinery not far from where I live was an Amalie refinery, not a Kendall facility as I had been led to believe.

    But I do have a couple issues. First, according to the Kendal Motor Oils History web page,( http://www.kendallmotoroils.com/history ), “…in 1913, Kendall Refining Company became the first producer of motor oil to extend oil change intervals from the average 500 miles, to the greatly improved 2000 miles. It was a massive achievement for the company. Koch represented this achievement with a new symbol: a hand holding up the number two. It has remained the symbol of Kendall quality to this day.”

    Second, I note that the Kendall symbol; is indeed, a hand holding up 2 fingers, not the thumb and forefinger forming a letter O with the following fingers suggesting the letter K long understood to mean “okay”, nor the apparently now associated white power symbol.

    I did find it interesting that, according to The Washington Post ( https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/fan-gets-life-ban-chicago-cubs-say-hand-gesture-was-racism-hate-speech ) this new meaning of the gesture apparently started as a hoax perpetrated by trolls of the website 4chan.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      May 13, 2019 at 8:49 am

      I learned a lot from this Stacey. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  4. Mimi Michalski Reply

    May 12, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    I think Cub Scouts (and Brownies) salute is two fingers, three is for Boy Scouts and regular Girl Scouts.

  5. Michael John Scott Reply

    May 12, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Two fingers for cubbies and three for the big boys. I know. I was a proud scout, both cub, and boy. Lasted until I found rock music and girls.

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