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The cups and the vases became marked with the fish, because the Greek spelling of the word "icthus" gave the initials of the Christian confession of faith.
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I don't doubt McCain's story, but I find it a little funny that he drew a cross in the ground instead of an icthus fish.
The former was adopted as a symbol for the latter because of a relation between the Greek word for fish (icthus) and a certain Greek phrase:
The Christian fish, or icthus, for example, is a symbol that’s evolved over centuries and centuries.