Miscellany № 95: invention, illumination, and evasion

Links! It is high time for a few links. Let’s start out with some scholarly appetisers before a good old-fashioned moral panic as dessert.

First up, anthropologist Piers Kelly, writing in the pages of Sapiens magazine, has penned a simple but compelling tale of how the Vai script of Liberia was invented and brought to its modern-day state in less than two centuries. Piers digs into how the accelerated evolution of the Vai script might be used to understand the development of ancient writing systems such as hieroglyphs, cuneiform, and Chinese script. His article is called “What the Vai Script Reveals About the Evolution of Writing”, and it is well worth a read.

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Miscellany #️⃣9️⃣4️⃣: flagging emoji?

If I learned anything as I wrote about emoji, it is that emoji is as dynamic as any “real” language. Here’s a recent development that demonstrates exactly that.

From the latest edition of Jennifer Daniel’s always-entertaining newsletter, “Did Someone Say Emoji?”, comes the news that Unicode is shutting down the pipeline of new flag emoji. Jennifer is the chair of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, so this comes straight from the 🐴’s mouth.

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Miscellany № 93: a fistful of manicules

Underware, the Dutch/Finnish type foundry comprising Akiem Helmling, Bas Jacobs and Sami Kortemäki, is one that gets special characters. Bas’s ironieteken (), or irony mark, was one of the first characters I wrote about here. They’ve also done some interesting work towards a “Latin plus” character set — a collection of the more than 450 accented and non-accented characters needed to typeset the hundreds of languages, common and otherwise, that use the roman alphabet. Now, they’ve added what they call a “manicule specimen” to this body of work. This warrants some explanation.

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Miscellany № 91: interrobang archaeology

Funny how time gets away with you in a late-stage pandemic, isn’t it? Here are a few somewhat recent stories of a typographic or emojinal (?) bent that Shady Characters readers may enjoy.

If you recall, the interrobang came into being back in 1962 and was immortalised just a few years later in Richard Isbell’s Americana typeface of 1967. As the first interrobang to take its place in a fully-fledged typeface, Isbell’s “open” version has a reasonable claim to being the canonical form of the character. The holotype of the interrobang, so to speak.

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