Picture Language

Language, Politics

An amazing post at

a visual language survival guide used by coalition soldiers. It’s a sort of show-and-tell folding map intended for both soldiers and private contractors working in Iraq — with lots of little pictures you can point to in front of an Iraqi person to say things like is the improvised explosive device hidden under the dead goat?” and was the bomb maker planning manual or remote detonation?”

…Visually, they’re unsettling. The images are functional icons, like highway signs or web UI buttons, so they reflect a simplified aesthetic — like early childhood storybooks. The subject matter is violent, but the look is see spot run” or happy Lego people at play.” The most surreal one is a two-part diagram in which a man is asked to remove his toupee so the interrogator can determine whether or not weapons are stashed beneath (shown in thumbnail here).