Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Shopping Not Done?

Do you have that special someone whose present you still need to buy?  Why not give them the gift that keeps on giving: "A Christmas Carol" in the Deseret Alphabet!

A paperback version is available now from Amazon (; I hope to have an ebook version before much longer.  I'm trying a POD service other than Lulu this time, and so the pricing is slightly better, only $15. (Had I not included color reproductions of the original illustrations, it would be even less.)

(I was going to do something other than "A Christmas Carol," which has been kind of done to death. Everything else I could think of, however, was either too short, too obscure, or too not-in-the-public-domain.)

𐐣𐐯𐑉𐐨 𐐗𐑉𐐮𐑅𐑋𐐲𐑅! 𐐘𐐪𐐼 𐐺𐑊𐐯𐑅 𐐲𐑅, 𐐯𐑂𐑉𐐨 𐐶𐐲𐑌!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Good News for Windows (and Surface?)

The Deseret Alphabet on Windows 8
I recently upgraded from Vista to Windows 8 and, having done so, I was rather surprised to see Deseret Alphabet text showing up correctly.  It turns out that the Segoe UI Symbol font has a complete set of Deseret Alphabet letters (but not Shavian, strangely enough). And they look pretty good, too. Given the close connection between Windows 8 and the OS on Microsoft's Surface tablet, I imagine the same would be true there. I don't know what the situation is on Android, but I know that iOS doesn't ship with a DA font. That means, it would seem, that the Surface may very well be the first tablet to ship with a Deseret Alphabet font.

Now, isn't that something to be thankful for?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Halloween Reading

The Deseret Alphabet edition of A Study in Scarlet has been so overwhelmingly successful—I’ve sold a grand total of one copy, and that was my own—I thought I’d follow it up with something appropriately spooky for Halloween.   I selected a total of fourteen stories and one poem by Edgar Allan Poe, put them all together, and added the beautiful illustrations by Harry Clarke.  The result is Tales of the Macabre (Deseret Alphabet edition).

This is a hardback and is therefore priced even more outrageously than A Study in Scarlet: $30.00 per copy.  I’m still going through Lulu, alas. I’m working on something better and cheaper. But meanwhile—well, it's got pretty pictures!

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Say Potato, I Say Pitato

One of the things that has particularly struck me as I’ve been converting this and that from standard English spelling to the Deseret Alphabet has to do with the fate of reduced vowels.

The mouths of English speakers, you see, are lazy.  When they’re pronouncing a word and come across an unstressed vowel—particularly a short unstressed vowel—they can hardly be bothered to work themselves up to actually pronouncing it. After all, nobody’ll hear it anyway. And so, in their hurry to get on to the next consonant, they reduce the vowel and turn it into something fast and easy to pronounce.

The problem is, there is no general agreement among English speaking mouths as to what, exactly the vowel will be reduced to.

Most popular is the schwa, represented in IPA as /ə/. Most of us, when we say “potato” usually end up saying something like |pəˈteɪdoʊ|.  (That /d/ in there is another issue, but we’ll ignore it for now.)

Schwa, however, has competition in the form of (and here I express my gratitude to Wikipedia) a  near-close central unrounded vowel. It doesn’t get a name of its own, but we Americans usually represent it in IPA with /ɨ/.  If you think of a schwa as a very short /ʌ/ (as in rub), then think of the other fellow as a very short /ɪ/ (as in rib).  In Deseret, we write them with 𐐲 and 𐐮, respectively.

To get a sense of what's going on here, listen very closely to different people pronouncing the word “exist.” Some of them will be saying |əɡˈzɪst|, and others will be saying |ɪɡˈzɪst|.  I, myself, am among the latter.

What throws things off here is that there are no general guides as to which vowel is used in which syllable of which word by which people. Some people use one and some the other. For some people, the two are in free variation; that is, they can be used completely interchangeably and good luck knowing in advance which one you’re going to run into.

I have therefore adopted a convention. The idea is that I want to make the transition from standard written English to the Deseret Alphabet as easy as possible, and therefore I want the Deseret form of a word to somehow “resemble” it’s normal form.  The middle vowel in decimal is reduced, for example, which means that the spellings 𐐼𐐯𐑅𐐲𐑋𐐲𐑊 and 𐐼𐐯𐑅𐐮𐑋𐐲𐑊 are both justifiable. Because the standard spelling uses an “i,” however, I opt for the latter spelling. Similarly, banana lacks an “i,” so it becomes 𐐺𐐲𐑌𐐰𐑌𐐲 instead of 𐐺𐐮𐑌𐐰𐑌𐐲.

I can’t say I’m entirely pleased with the end result all the time, but at least I’m less displeased than I otherwise might be.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Transliteration Service Available

It was recently announced on the Yahoo! Deseret Alphabet group that a service to transliterate standard written English to the Deseret Alphabet is available at  I haven't tried it myself (since I use my own software to do that task), but it's definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just in Time for Pioneer Day!

OK, OK, so the ties were a bit disappointing. The bumper stickers turned out well, though. Now, however, we have something really exciting—

Last year, I was having dinner with Ken Beesley and our respective wives, and he mentioned casually that sometime in the past someone at BYU transcribed a Sherlock Holmes story into the Deseret Alphabet. That, methought, would be an interesting project.

And, of course, if one is going to transcribe a Sherlock Holmes story, there is only one real choice: A Study in Scarlet. Not only is it the first Sherlock Holmes story, but it is also well known for its, um, interesting take on life in pioneer Utah.

(It's easy for me from my perspective to take the book’s anti-Mormonism lightly, because the whole thing is really silly if you know much about pioneer Utah—which Doyle obviously does not. I don’t know how seriously people take it today, except that the book was removed from one school library on that basis. Still, fleeing Salt Lake by going over the mountains to Carson City?)

Anyway, to make a long story short, I’ve spent the last few months doing the transcription and proofing it. I wrapped the process up yesterday and put it up on Lulu.  (Yes, yes, I know Lulu isn’t the best choice for POD publication. I already had an account there and wanted to wrap things up in time for the 24th. And I have another project I want to focus on which is frankly more fun.)

So you, too, for a mere $18.47 (get it?) can get your own copy of A Study in Scarlet in the Deseret Alphabet! As a real book!

In the interest of full disclosure, since I only put it up yesterday, I haven’t seen what it actually will be like when printed and bound, and it might be as bad as the ties. I fully expect to do some tweaking once I see my copy. Caveat emptor.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Just in Time for Fathers Day!

Let’s face it. Your father has always wanted one: a necktie. And not just any necktie, but a necktie with the Deseret Alphabet on it! Heck, what sort of man could possibly resist?

Here, then, is your chance to make your papa proud this Fathers Day. Go to, where you’ll have your choice of two (two!) different necktie designs. Each is in fashionable black with green text featuring quotations from 19th century LDS leaders (including the unfathomable Brigham Young himself) encouraging the use of the Deseret Alphabet. The regular tie has nice small type for the Elders Quorum, and the large print tie is perfect for the High Priest in your life.*

Now, to be honest, I haven’t actually seen one of the ties for myself. My experience with Zazzle suggests that they may look truly awful. Don’t worry, though—Zazzle has a thirty-day refund policy. That will give me a chance to try again and see if I can do something better than before.

And, as an extra bonus, two different Deseret Alphabet bumper stickers are also available. Let everyone know of your intellectual superiority in a truly American fashion: by putting it on your car! One bumper sticker challenges other drivers to “Honk if you can read this,” and the other pilfers from a popular Primary** song to tell everyone just how lovely we all know the Deseret Alphabet to be.

I have seen the bumper stickers, and they do look fairly nice though I say who shouldn’t. Even my wife thinks so, and she’s a stickler about this sort of thing.  (Me not saying anything, that is.)

Of course, if you happen to pick up a copy of the QR code t-shirt or the official IRG #37 t-shirt while you’re there—well, I won’t object.***

For the Gentile:

*All Mormon males above the age of twelve are clergy of one variety or another. Almost all adult men are either Elders (if they’re not elderly) or High Priests (if they are). LDS women are relieved to be able to spend at least one hour a week away from the men and are to be found in the appropriately-named “Relief Society.”

**This is the weird meeting your LDS friends used to go to once a week after primary school—at least, if you’re old enough to have gone to primary school before around 1980 and had any LDS friends.

***Yes, I do get a small amount of money from each sale. If you think I’m going to make any real money off of this, well, I have a bridge across the East River you may be interested in purchasing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

John Morris Redux

Third time’s the charm, I suppose.

On Sunday, I was in the vicinity of Cedar City with assorted relations and friends to see the annular solar eclipse. I was determined to finally get the precise location of the John Morris headstone using the Deseret Alphabet. This was my third attempt. The first time, I took some nice pictures but didn’t have my iPhone’s geotagging turned on, so it didn’t help an awful lot. The second time was a quick wooosh past the cemetery on a tour bus and I couldn’t even spot it. Now I was going to do things right.

As we drove past the cemetery, I was riding shotgun and kept my eyes peeled. I spotted it easily enough and we pulled over so that I could get a picture.

The headstone is very readily visible from the road; no other headstones stand between it and the low cemetery wall just a few yards away. It’s almost exactly at the point where 800 North intersects North Main Street.  The latitude and longitude are 37° 41' 25.80" N, 113° 3' 44.40" W. (The altitude is some 1749 m, if that helps.)

The headstone is visible (barely) on Google Maps, and quite visible (but illegible) on Google Street View.

I did not check the Iron Mission State Park visitors center down the road to see if they sell t-shirts, but considering the fact that the last time I checked nobody there even knew that there was such a thing as the Deseret Alphabet, let alone that there was a replica of a 19th century headstone in the Deseret Alphabet to be found a couple of blocks away—well, I have my doubts. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Oz. of Prevention is Worth a Lb. of Cure

While working on today’s XKCD, I ran across something I hadn’t given a lot of thought to before. The text of the comic uses the venerable abbreviation, “oz.” How to proceed?

By and large, most unit names one runs across are English in the sense that if they’re written out in full, they’re written without italics: ounce, pound, foot, mile. Even SI units are so treated: gram, meter (or metre in the UK), newton, joule. Some units not at all used in the Anglosphere also have English equivalents (catty, talent).

Abbreviations for all these things are therefore English abbreviations. This is a bit more complicated for SI units, because they don’t strictly speaking have abbreviations. They have symbols, which is why we write "km/s" without any periods. (The English would leave out the periods anyway, but that’s their problem.) You’re supposed to use the symbols regardless of the writing system you’re using, so “kilometer” should always be represented with “km,” and never “k,” “κμ,” or “𐐿𐑋,” let alone “公里,” but that doesn’t seem to stop people.

The flies in the ointment are a small number of very, very old units—units so old that the standard English abbreviations used for them are not derived from the English word. The most widely used of these are the two related to weight: ounce and pound, which are abbreviated to “oz.” (from the old Italian onza) and “lb.” (from the Latin libra).

My general policy with regard to abbreviations has been to respect the language of origin. “Common Era” consists of two English words and so is abbreviated to “𐐗.𐐀.”—I pronounce the word /'irə/, after all, even if /'ɛrə/ is preferred. “Anno Domini,” however one may pronounce it, is Latin, not English. It ends up, therefore, as “A.D.”

Initialisms are just one kind of abbreviation, so I tend to treat them similarly: “HTML” gets turned into “𐐐𐐓𐐣𐐢.” XKCD is a special case because “XKCD” isn’t actually an initialism or abbreviation for anything. It’s just a name made up of four Latin letters. Acronyms present a problem of their own, inasmuch as turning “SCUBA” into “𐐝𐐗𐐊𐐒𐐈” gives a rather different result from turning “scuba” into “𐑅𐐿𐐭𐐺𐐲.” “Scuba” has become a naturalized English word, after all; most people probably don’t know that it originally was an acronym, let alone what it was an acronym for. And then there are things like “SAT,” which could either be “𐐝𐐈𐐓” or “𐐝𐐊𐐓,” depending on whether or not one thinks it’s a word and what one thinks it stands for.

The simple fact is that spoken languages evolve around their written forms. One reason why China has found it impossible to abandon sinograms is that for three thousand years, speakers have modified the way they speak on the assumption that words are written using them. Spoken and written Chinese exist in symbiosis, and neither can change without having an impact on the other.

English, as usual, ups this trend to eleven. Not only has it been stealing words from other languages with careless abandon for centuries and spelling them every which way, but since the mid-2oth century, acronyms have become a major way by which its vocabulary is extended. This even goes for the foreign words we acquire. (I'd give obvious examples, but that would end up involving Godwin’s law.) So we have initialisms which are abbreviations, initialisms which are full words, initialisms which are treated like words but pronounced as if they were abbreviations, camel-case words, and every possible combination of the above. I won’t even get into IM-speak (or r u going 2 insist?) and l33t.

Among the barriers the Deseret Alphabet—as well Shavian et al.—faces in trying to be taken seriously as a writing system, then, is the fact that the language it is intended to write is spoken on the assumption that its being written in a completely different script. If you prefer, significant chunks of spoken English don’t make sense unless you’re using the Latin script for writing.

As for our friends “ounce” and “pound,” I decided that since they’re English words, I should give them English abbreviations: “𐐵𐑌.” and “𐐹𐐼.,” respectively. (“𐐍𐑌.” is a pretty useless abbreviation, of course since the word in full would only have one more letter. It's like abbreviating “June” as “Jun.” It just seems unnecessary.) If the old Italians or ancient Romans object to either abbreviation—well, I’ll cross that bridge if and when I ever come to it.