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Dear Matt:

Every once in a while I run across a rather cryptic notation, this being a "CE" inscribed on a product in a rather curly, Phoenician-type script. I've seen this on everything from Vuarnet sunglasses to car stereo amplifiers. It seems to be found on imported items especially. Can you fill me in on its meaning?

-- Matt W., San Diego

Ahhh, very insightful, grasshopper. "CE" would be more common on imports. It means your Vuarnets, your amplifiers, electric pasta maker, farm machinery, your nuclear reactor meet the safety standards set for such items by the European Union. The goal of the union is to make a single, unified set of standards for various products for all member countries. In the case of the Vuarnets, they're certifying the quality of the lenses. If you've committed some fashion faux pas with the frames, well, the union can't do anything about that.

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