Many people in the Pittsburgh region are familiar with the “Mr. Yuk” stickers.
Created in the 1970’s by Wendy Courtney Brown, then a 4th grade elementary student, as a part of a Pittsburgh Poison Control contest.
The idea is that Mr. Yuk stickers are placed on Medicine cabinets, cleaning closets, and anywhere else that children aren’t supposed to me.
He serves as a warning that whatever lies within isn’t supposed to be eaten, or drank – “It’s yucky”, and if it is, then there’s a quick reference to the National Poison Control helpline.
Whether Wendy, our elementary school student from Weirton, West Virginia, knew it or not, Mr. Yuk had been used thousands of years before, for a similar purpose, and thousands of miles away.
The Greeks called him Medusa – well, her – a Gorgon.
We know Medusa as a woman, with snakes for hair, who turned all who looked directly at her into stone.
Medusa was a Gorgon (derived from gorgos – “dreadful”). Gorgoneion art dates back as far as the 5th Century, BC. Gorgoneia was used by the Greeks to make warrior shields generally more scary and menacing.
“Don’t come near me, you’ll get hurt”
The daunting face of a Gorgon has shown up in other circumstances, too.
Clearly used as a warning, Gorgoneia has been found on the doors of ovens, and kilns, as well as Roman Roofs, and doors.
Apparently these features weren’t meant to only keep children at bay, but were meant to scare away evil influences, too.