The meaning(lessness?) of repetition

A couple of scenes are repeated in my daily life, either of which, and neither of which, could mean anything more than the scene itself. I’m not sure there’s semiotic weight in a Merleau-Ponty or Roland Barthes sort of way, although the latter might be amused to be called to the fore around something so transitive:


For weeks now, when I head to my office from the ferry terminal side of Alderney, passing along the pedway, I see a middle aged man reading a book. He sits reading on a bench, seemingly oblivious to all passersby, although it is a busy time of day in that vicinity. He is well dressed–leather coat, shined shoes. Not only is he always engrossed in a book, but it has been the same book for at least the past three weeks, an ancient paperback copy (looks almost like the original paperback edition) of a Daphne Du Maurier novel. He has progressed through its relative slimness, but so slowly that I wonder if he is memorizing its text in full. It doesn’t seem like the sort of book a businessman would read here today–not just the title I mean, but the actual physical edition. And so it has become a curiosity, and something close to–but not exactly–“When is a pipe not a pipe?”


the second repetition is not one of an act but of an enterprise. Within about 10 blocks of each other, there are two wholesale olive oil distributors of such size and apparent funding that each sits on a major thoroughfare in downtown Halifax. This sort of repetition would not be noteworthy if we were considering streetscapes in Los Angeles or Madrid, but this is here. One is on Barrington and the other on South Park, just a door or two south of Spring Garden. Aware of the relative dearth of Italian restaurants in town, I am hard pressed to fathom where all the olive oil is going.


While neither a man reading a Du Maurier novel nor an olive oil wholesaler carries any semiological load other than itself, the repetition of each one seems curious. And I can see Bob’s eyes rolling at that very assertion. He would not be the first to say, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

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One Response to “The meaning(lessness?) of repetition”

  1. Glenn I Says:

    Itself can be quite a load, semiological or otherwise.

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