Replies ranged from the hugely libellous to the frankly pornographic, and most of them have already been incinerated. But R L Dapre spoke for many by suggesting the following configuration: PR@. And one of the few answers of a family nature came from Louis Berk, who suggested that the symbol was in fact a drawing of Sooty.
George Luke reckoned a high- pitched bark would be appropriate. Peter Jones from the Dun Horse pub in Kendal pointed out that the male and female symbols conflated in Prince's new name are also old metallurgical symbols for iron and copper: if you rearrange the words 'iron' and 'copper', you arrive at 'Poor Prince'.
Sadly, this was way too clever to win, though it did in the end take an academic to nail the matter. The winning letter was submitted by a Dr Steffi Croke, from URL, Dept SCI-Res.
'The symbol has actually been the subject of research for some time here at URL. The pronunciation of SCIs (Semiotically Complex Ideograms) is an important part of the work at the University because of its application in treating brain stem disorders. Most people apply an interiorised (ie, unarticulated) pronunciation to SCIs. Studying the link between the interiorised sound and the symbol can shed light on the connection between visual cognition and speech.
'For example, a small soft brown shape on a public pavement may be pronounced 'sheet' (the double 'e' is glotally stopped).
'In the case of Prince, the SCI is a common one but with an honourable history. It was, reputedly, used to sign the peace treaty at Versailles and has also been the subject of a very interesting 'local abuse' field study at HM Customs and Excise (see Nature, 134, pp 21-302).
'In this case, our studies - which, I'm not afraid to say, involve experimentation with animals - show conclusively that the sign should be pronounced )). The 'c', however, is hardened.'
Dr Croke receives a package of old CDs and some other virtually valueless pop-related rubbish.