I before E except after C.
Today is Hangul Day, a holiday to celebrate the Korean writing system. Here’s a video from some years ago with the great linguist Jim McCawley explaining why this is an important day in the calendar:
[Enjoy the Scottish accent. By the way, it's the University of Chicago, not Chicago University.]
This is holiday season. From this blog on October 14th in 2011:
We’ve just had the holiday triple play — Hangul Day [October 9th], Columbus Day (U.S.) / Thanksgiving (Canada) [both the second Monday in October], National Coming Out Day [October 11th] … — and next up is Dictionary Day, October 16th, celebrated on Noah Webster’s birthday. Words running amok in the streets!
A few weeks ago, from Benita Bendon Campbell, two cartoons from the strip One Big Happy (information on the strip here), with little kids coping with English. Ruthie plays with alphabetical ordering:
And Joe commits an eggcorn on unnamed source, using a topic he knows something about, namely dinosaurs:
Passed on from the Archaeosoup site (via Facebook), this New Yorker cartoon (1/26/63) by Ed Fisher:
This tickles archaeologists’ funny bones. And epigraphers’, of course.
My friend Max Vasilatos has been creating wooden fridge magnets for various alphabets. She’s a woodworker, and the project is an exercise in art and craft. Yes, you can get plastic fridge magnets for a number of alphabets, but that’s not the point.
From last month, the Hebrew alefbet as carved by Max:
The medium determined many of her choices, so her letters are more stylized than, say, the plastic Megcos Magnetic Hebrew Letters.
Note: The Hebrew alefbet has 22 letters, but five of them are written differently when they appear at the end of a word (rather than at the beginning or in the middle), so that there are 27 different forms. Here’s the full alefbet as printed by hand:
The Old English letter þ (known as thorn) played a central role in my posting on a “frugal typographer” who proposed in 1929 to save space by replacing the word the by þ. Now thorn is the subject of a New Yorker blog piece by editor Mary Norris: “The Thorn Word” (note play on The Thorn Birds).
Annals of silliness: from the Medford [Oregon] Daily News, June 23, 1929, a story about one man’s quest to save space by replacing the word the by a single symbol:
Note the wry conclusion to the jocular piece:
Its general use should prove a great boon to newspapers, facilitating composition and reserving space now given over to “the’s” for more comic strips and letters to the editor.
Maybe Mason was just an eccentric whose ideas never caught on. Or maybe Mason was the invention of a mischievous journalist; notice that we hear nothing about Mason except for his campaign to replace the.
(Hat tip to Ben Truwe, who operated the Medford typography firm ProType for 22 years. The image of the newspaper page is the one he sent me; I understand that it’s not easy to read, even when you click on it to embiggen it.)
(I’m not experienced in dealing with newspaper archives and haven’t been able to find this story, datelined New York, in any other publication.)
In the latest (October 31st) New Yorker, a cartoon by Robert Leighton about early writing systems:
When I teach about writing systems, the students are always fascinated with the idea that we can learn about long-distant civilizations from what their people wrote. And, eventually, we can. But at the beginning, what people wrote wasn’t love letters, tales of court, imaginative fiction, travel stories, or anything like that. Instead, much more practically, they made records of traded items (grain, animals, other things of value). Tallies, as in the cartoon.
(Not that people tallied things thousands of years ago the way we do now. Or that Stonehenge was a gigantic tally done by huge standing stones.)
Over on Language Log, Victor Mair ignited some passionate discussion with a posting about the tattoos on the face of a young man (in a mug shot). The largest tattoo was on his forehead:
A reporter for the Daily Mail interpreted this as a misspelling of Genius, with a J instead of a G. Victor countered by saying that the letter was “a nicely formed cursive capital” G. Commenters in the U.K. were generally baffled by this claim.