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I've been keenly interested in this subject for years. In my own research, I've found that gaining awareness of distinctions was probably not a matter of pointing out the obvious, but rather a two-step process:

1.) Becoming aware for the first time of the existence of a distinction.

2.) Communicating that distinction to others in a conscious fashion, through the written & spoken word, as well as through action.

It is not sufficient to communicate a difference through words &/or pictures without being at least minimally conscious of it.

Heraldry demonstrates this. European heraldry was one of the earliest vocations to attempt a technically precise & standardized verbal description of visual objects. Early verbal heraldic descriptions of armorial bearings are surprisingly accurate about the color, aspect, & position of shapes & symbols on a shield, yet glaringly imprecise about other visually important features.

An example is heraldry's treatment of number: among the charges (heraldic symbols) used on coats of arms, the star or "mullet" may have any number of points from four to eight; but the manner in which the points of the star are drawn (stright or wavy) & the the way its center is treated (pierced or unpierced) have been far more important to its heraldic evolution than the number of its points.

Detailed specification of the number of points on a mullet or star has only entered heraldic descriptions relatively recently--at some time within the last couple of centuries.

What is true of the star or mullet is also true of other heraldic charges: number as it affected the forms of certain charges was often imprecisely specified, although the QUANTITIES of identical charges were exactly noted as a rule.

Within European culture, consciously marked visual distinctions generally seem to have been relatively recent phenomena. It has taken centuries--in heraldry, & perhaps in other fields--for obvious distinctions to become obvious.

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