An alien twist on the On/Off Switch symbol

My post about the evolution of the On/Off Switch symbol turned out to be very popular with this blog’s esteemed readers. So, here is a second serving on the subject. This time, something completely different…

Switch on Alaris pump controller

I was visiting someone in a hospital and I saw this piece of medical equipment by Alaris Medical Systems. From what I could gather, it was a controller for a volumetric injection pump that was administering medication to the patient at a programmable rate.

So – look at the symbols around the big key-switch (sorry about the quality of the hurried cellphone photo). Obviously, they’re meant to be conventional icons denoting some functionality – maybe On, Off, and something in between? Or Fast flow, Slow flow, and Manual flow control? The point is that it’s clear that they do mean some three states, and that their distinct simplified forms map to those three meanings somehow, yet for me, as a non-medical person, they could just as easily mean glrrrph, drerp and hoomphla. I’ve completely failed to decipher this symbolism. If you know what it means, add a comment for the benefit of the rest of us.

I assume the nurses that use this gear have been trained in its use… still, one wishes they’d add the meaning in plain English alongside (or instead of) the mysterious icons. But then, that goes to “one word can be worth a thousand pictures”, as I’ve considered here.

Which reminds me of a question I’ve pondered in some idle moments: would an alien visitor make any sense of our ubiquitous arrow symbol? Or do you have to descend from a specific hunter-gatherer background to feel that it must mean motion in the direction of the arrow’s tip?…

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