Is this a pipe?

I’ve always been interested in semiotics, but I find most discussions of it ridiculously abstract and off-putting. Then one day I’m searching for something random (“images of cartoon hands”) and Google lands me on this Semiotics for Beginners page. It is what it says: an introduction, lucid and enjoyable, to the quicksand world of semiotics. I particularly liked this section on modality and representation. In my essay on protein synthesis and the meaning of life, I talk about the general concept of meaning (what does meaning mean?) and the human urge to attach magical meaning to language. This is the realm of semiotics, and this website is a great introduction to the topic, including a discussion of Magritte’s famous painting of a non-pipe. As the author of the site, Daniel Chandler, says:

Any representation is more than merely a reproduction of that which it represents: it also contributes to the construction of reality… Even if we do not adopt the radical stance that ‘the real world’ is a product of our sign systems, we must still acknowledge that there are many things in the experiential world for which we have no words and that most words do not correspond to objects in the known world at all. Thus, all words are ‘abstractions’, and there is no direct correspondence between words and ‘things’ in the world.

What is amazing and wonderful is that any such correspondence arose at all.