PROFESSOR - late 30s/early 40s, dressed in pyjamas with a tweedy blazer/sports coat and tortoiseshell glasses, which he is constantly trying to push back up his nose, regardless of actual slippage.
SECURITY GUARD - blue collar, gruff but sympathetic. he's encountered the professor giving previous lectures before.
PROFESSOR enters with a stack of papers and books, sets them on the table. He looks out to the audience and studies them briefly, pushes glasses up on nose. After a moment, he goes to chalkboard (or whiteboard) and draws the pointy S on a chalkboard.
Alternatively, after sizing up the audience, he pulls a folded piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolds it and holds it up with the Pointy S drawing facing outward towards the audience.
PROFESSOR: Can anyone tell me what this is? Anyone? No one?
(takes place behind lectern and bangs his fist on the top) Nobody knows!
Despite decades, if not centuries of its existence, it seems no one on the face of the Earth knows what this symbol is, where it came from, or what it means. No human throughout history has been willing to take credit for the invention of this ... pointy S-like thing that inexplicably manifests itself on school notebooks and overpasses, washroom stalls and garage doors, scrawled large across faded billboards for menthol cigarettes and carved deep into the tabletops at dive bars and wooden railings of remote parklands.
I recall my days as a young lad, idly sketching this very shape in the margins of my composition book, alongside my classmates who were likewise doodling, as our teachers droned on about ancient cultures, mathematical equations, and scientific theories. We hadn’t a clue where it came from, but it looked cool, so we decorated book covers and binders with it for years until, one day…we didn't. As mysteriously as it entered our prepubescent lives, it vanished from our doodle repertoire and our minds. A few months ago, the memories came rushing back when I noticed Kevin, my nine-year-old nephew drawing on the cover of his notebook the same Pointy S that I'd done 30-odd years before. Oh, I thought, was this actually from a once trendy thing that’s circled round again as trends and television shows are wont to do. My curiosity piqued, I inquired where he’d gotten the notion to draw it. My nephew responded with a most eloquent "dunnuh."
Well! As an adjunct Professor of Arcane Marginalia at the University of Margaritaville, I couldn't let this mystifying matter drop. I’ve spent countless hours poring over historic tomes, reviewing ancient symbols and alphabets, scanning design manuals for wordmarks that might match this character. I’ve interrogated fellow colleagues and former classmates. I’ve consulted experts—historians, typographers, mathematicians, and psychic advisors. I’ve scoured the internet, reading dozens of articles and message boards and countless Subreddit threads. My findings have revealed that everyone recognizes the doodle itself and confesses to copying it onto their own notebooks between the ages of eight and eleven, but they don’t know anything about it. Most people suppose it's a phase unique to their own childhood, dating back to the mid-1960s, and perhaps they were out sick on the day the doodle was introduced. With no recorded historical significance and no documented point of origin, it’s as if the proliferation of pointy esses emblazoned on edifices was perpetrated by stealthy, street-tough fairies with gossamer wings and leather jackets, armed with spray paint and jackknives, working under cover of night to spread their mysterious message for children to see on their commute to school, with no discernible purpose than to serve as an unspoken tradition passed on through schoolchildren, crossing genders, classes, races, and nationalities. At this moment, young Martians and Venusians could be doodling it in notebook margins during boring lectures alongside their crude drawings of that grotesque Mrs. Jefferson emitting a large quantity of stink lines from her bottom.
Those lacking curiosity reckon the Pointy S is an asemic morpheme, a mere simple doodle, just an alternative to your run-of-the-mill cube requiring no skill or thought when mindlessly doodling through boring lectures or while on hold with customer service, so, of course it's attractive to children and I’m overthinking things again and this is why I’ll never find love. Excuse me for being intrigued by what is possibly the greatest phenomenon of the 20th century, Marsha!
(scribbling on paper or whiteboard as he speaks) Look, most doodles can be identified. Here's a square. Oh, look, now it's a cube. Here's a circle. Now it's a smiley face. Now it's Mr. Sunshine piercing heat rays into some nearby clouds. Here's some doodly little hearts for the girls out there. (winks at no one in particular) Let's add some stars here...oooh, shooting stars. Ah! Here's Mr. Chad to tell us “Kilroy was here." (holds up a detailed drawing of an alien) Here's Zorbert, an intergalactic acquaintance of mine who comes round to get me into or out of harebrained schemes. (draws a bunch of arrows pointing to the other doodles) We've got easily identifiable doodles coming out of our yin yangs! (draws a yin yang)
But this—what is this figure? A profane hieroglyphic? Rogue Aztec graffiti? A symbol for an abandoned form of currency? A doodle from da Vinci's discarded bar napkin?
Sure, it's easy to do—just draw two equidistant sets of three parallel lines, then join them diagonally from left to right, then cap off at the top and bottom with pointy bits. Put it all together and what've you got? A Pointy S. But why? And why does it mostly appeal to young children for such a brief window of time?
A lot of people presume the Pointy S is inspired by a logo from a popular heavy metal band or superhero or skateboard company. These presumptions can be easily debunked with a simple side-by-side comparison of the S to these logos. For every six suppositions that the Pointy S is some sort of logo, one person counters that it must be a gang sign, a theory loosely based on a lone observation of the symbol tucked amongst some roadside graffiti and the notion that all graffiti must be gang-related. This myth is generally favoured by authority figures, who are always keen to attribute things they don't understand to gangs.
For years, apparently, the Pointy S has been misattributed to the Stüssy brand. So prevalent is this myth that the Pointy S is generally identified by the misnomer Stüssy S.
(holds up a print out of the Stüssy logo) However, a simple web image search brings up the official Stüssy logo in its variations since the company's formation in the 1980s and not one is identical to the Pointy S. Despite this contrary evidence, a surprising majority of people who correspond on Internet forums are willing to blithely accept this and go about their lives. Close enough, they say. I say even if you justify that the Pointy S is based in part on this one particular S, you still haven't rationalized why it is pointy on either end.
Now, there is one plausible theory suggesting this symbol originated as a puzzle in a 1950s issue of Scholastic magazine, one of those teasers—“use these six lines to draw an S". Of course, there is no recorded evidence of this mid-century ephemera and the question remains—where did this variation of the letter S originate? Who, in 1950s America, was drawing esses with straight lines? When the modern S had been beautifully simplified to one smooth curvy line, who's mission was it to make it so very complex and pointy?
My colleague in the university's Pseudohistory department theorizes the symbol was first observed in the margins of the 1965 edition of a Harcourt Brace science textbook, put forth as part of a grand experiment in unconscious perception by the textbook publisher and used in conjunction subliminal messages inserted into educational filmstrips. The experiment was designed to measure how susceptible students were to subliminal stimuli and their response. For example, would students subjected to a viewing of The Great Scramfoozler of Zoo pick up on suggestive messaging to doodle the Pointy S whilst learning about public way-finding? Eventually, my colleague surmises, the Pointy S was adopted independent of Harcourt Brace and was passed on organically by students via textbooks and any surface onto which a child could make a tiny mark of rebellion.
We may never know the true progenitor of the Pointy S. Many of you will return to your homes tonight, satisfied to believe the disproved explanation that the Pointy S is the Stüssy logo. “Meh, works for me,” you’ll say to your spouse. “Banksy probably added those pointy bits to make a creative statement. That professor was clearly mad for suggesting it could be anything else. Marsha was right to kick him out. Why would anyone dedicate their lives to examining the minutiae of Marginalia anyway? They're just doodles for fuck's sake! Starving children in Africa don't even have the strength to draw circles in the sand, much less esses of any angularity. Well, why are you so willing to accept easily debunked theories?! You could have so much fun devising your own outlandish theories and flinging them hither and yon across the Internet.
My own theory starts in the margins where the Pointy S is typically found. It was first discovered as a drollery lifted from an ancient illuminated manuscript, the handiwork of a sneaky 11-year-old monk's apprentice making reference to the popular Medieval rune-based card game Crazy Aetts. In its original form, the Pointy S was turned horizontally, resembling a sort of rustic infinity symbol. It was turned to its more recognizable vertical aspect when adapted for Lord Cumberland Lovelady's North Sherbetshire League of Vagrants in the late 18th century. Ooh! Another possibility could be a rudimentary take on the section sign (§), that obscure yet ubiquitous symbol scattered about in legal documents. If I could refer you to section 3 of Kevin's grade three mathematics textbook, I think you'll find the Pointy S--
SECURITY GUARD enters
SECURITY GUARD: Alright, Professor, time to go. It's snack time.
PROFESSOR: But I was giving a lecture to these people--
SECURITY GUARD: Sure you were, buddy. Come on.
SECURITY GUARD moves to guide PROFESSOR away.
PROFESSOR: All of my theories— And the pointy-ness--
SECURITY GUARD: Yeah, yeah.
(notices all the esses drawn by the professor) Say, that's the Stüssy logo, ain't it? We used to draw that at school. Ha!
PROFESSOR whimpers and sobs as he's escorted away.