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Like haiku or hieroglyphics, diplomatic language often requires interpretation. But the new Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has taken the semiotics of diplomacy to a new level. She literally wears her feelings on her lapel, but she makes her point subtly, with brooches. "Everyone will just have to read my pins," she says. Below, a selection from the Albright collection, with accompanying interpretation.

Albright likes to wear the eagle and top hat on her trips abroad as symbols of American power and glory. She most recently wore both when she met Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow in February. The goat is the gift of an admiral at Annapolis, who sent it to her after he read accounts that the brutal Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic had apparently named one of his goats after the then U.N. ambassador. In 1994, when reports circulated in the Iraqi press calling Albright a serpent, she decided to wear the snake pin--in lieu of a name tag--when meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. Albright says the bumblebee reminds her of Muhammad Ali's motto, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," which could well be her slogan too. Look for the balloon when the Secretary is feeling up, and for the Capitol when she is trying to be at her bipartisan best. Other brooches, like the spider web, she simply finds alluring.

--By Alain L. Sanders