A cultural icon is an object that represents some aspect of the values, norms or ideals perceived to be inherent in a culture, or section of a culture. Cultural icons vary widely, and may include objects like telephone boxes, aircraft, and buildings, or indeed real or fictional people.
The values, norms and ideals represented by a cultural icon vary both among people who subscribe to it, and more widely among other people who may interpret cultural icons as symbolising quite different values. Thus an apple pie is a cultural icon of the United States, but Americans may not agree on what it symbolises. The term has varying meanings; it is described by Michael Parker as the "contested and poorly defined subject area of cultural iconicity". In Russia, nesting sets of matryoshka dolls have been popular toys since 1892, but are seen internationally as cultural icons of Russia.
For example, widely accepted cultural icons of the United Kingdom include the Angel of the North statue; Big Ben (properly a bell, but widely applied to the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament in London); Cup of tea (for the British tea drinking habit); the red pillar box (Royal Mail letter collection box); the Red Telephone Box; the red Routemaster London double decker bus; the Spitfire, a World War II fighter aircraft.
Cultural icons in general can be of almost any kind, for example human, such as the figure of the female athlete; film characters, such as Superman; animals such as the horse; aspects of science, such as DNA; disasters, such as the loss of the Titanic; books, such as Plato's Timaeus; or types of boat, such as the oriental Dhow.
Media overuse 
Some writers say that the terms "icon" and "iconic" have been overused. A writer in Liverpool Daily Post calls "iconic" "a word that makes my flesh creep," a word "pressed into service to describe almost anything." The Christian Examiner nominates "iconic" in its list of overused words, finding over 18,000 "iconic" references in news stories alone, with another 30,000 for "icon", including its use for SpongeBob SquarePants.
- ^ /University of Central Lancashire - Phd Thesis
- ^ Bobo, Suzanna (25 December 2012). "Scuttlebutt: Wooden toy tells a story of love and industry". Kodiak Daily Mirror. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
- ^ Guardian: Angel of the North. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- ^ Gateshead Council: Angel of the North an English Icon. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- ^ Future Matters: Cultural Regeneration. Retrieved 15 December 2012. "The development of cultural icons such as Sage, Baltic and The Angel of the North have shown that iconic projects can go a long way to improving external perceptions of an area, as well as providing environmental, economic and social benefits."
- ^ a b c d British Postal Museum & Archive: Icons of England. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- ^ Holloway, J Christopher; Taylor, Neil (7th Edition, 2006 (First published 1983)). The Business of Tourism. Pearson Education. p. 217.
- ^ McManus, Erwin Raphael (2001). An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church God Had in Mind. Flagship Church Resources. p. 113.
- ^ BBC: Tea steams ahead in icon hunt. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- ^ Thorne, Tony (2011). "The 100 Words that Make the English". Cuppa (Hachette Digital (e-book)).
- ^ BBC. "a classic icon of British design inextricably linked to our national image"
- ^ a b c Jenkins, Simon; Dean Godson (editor) (October 2005). "Replacing the Routemaster". p. 7. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
- ^ Rodgers, René (editor) (October 2002). "ROYAL MAIL LETTER BOXES A Joint Policy Statement". Royal Mail / English Heritage. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
- ^ a b c Culture24: Icons of England. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- ^ O'Neill, Brendan (2 April 2009). "Gulf News / Christian Science Monitor". To save a past that rings a bell. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
- ^ Parker, Mike (2012). "Cultural Icons: A Case Study Analysis of their Formation and Reception (PhD Thesis)". Chapter 5: The Spitfire Aircraft (University of Central Lancashire). pp. 123–167.
- ^ Foudy et al, 2003.
- ^ Brooker, 2001.
- ^ Edwards et al, 2011.
- ^ Nelkin and Lindee, 2004.
- ^ Heyer, 2012.
- ^ Reydams-Shils, 2003.
- ^ Gilbert, 2008.
- ^ Let's hear it for the Queen's English, Liverpool Daily Post
- ^ Modern word usage amazingly leaves us yearning for gay, old times, Christian Examiner
- Brooker, Will (2001). Batman Unmasked: Analysing a Cultural Icon. Continuum.
- Edwards, Peter; Karl Enenkel, and Elspeth Graham (editors) (2011). The Horse as Cultural Icon: The Real and the Symbolic Horse in the Early Modern World. Brill.
- Foudy, Julie; Leslie Heywood and Shari L Dworkin (2003). Built to Win: The Female Athlete as Cultural Icon. University of Minnesota Press.
- Nelkin, Dorothy and M Susan Lindee (2004). The DNA Mystique: The Gene as a Cultural Icon. University of Michigan Press.
- Biedermann, Hans (1994). Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meanings Behind Them. Meridan.
- Heyer, Paul (2012). Titanic Century: Media, Myth, and the Making of a Cultural Icon. Praeger.
- Reydams-Schils, Gretchen J (2003). Plato's Timaeus as Cultural Icon. University of Notre Dame Press.
- Gilbert, Erik (2008). The Dhow as Cultural Icon. Boston University.
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