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 № 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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Emoji, part 10: state of the nation

We’ve come a long way, 👶, in this series of posts on emoji, and it’s time to round things up.

We’ve seen how emoji were invented, where they came from, and how they went global. We’ve examined the technical and political infrastructure that underpin the emoji we see on our smartphones and computer screens, and we’ve watched emoji transcend their electronic roots to appear in the news, in the courts, in the movies, and more.

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Emoji, part 9: going beyond

Given all we’ve seen so far in this series, it becomes natural to wonder: what’s next for emoji? And how do we even begin to answer that question?

We saw in part 7 that emoji are neither a language nor a script. But if we might be permitted for a moment to call them script-like, then, of all of the scripts and script-like things that we use to communicate online, emoji were perhaps the first to be native to the digital world. They were born to inject life into Japan’s teen-friendly poke beru, or pagers; later, they were adopted by Apple, Google, and other companies who have made their money online; and, under the care of the Unicode Consortium, they continue to be tended to by a group of nerds of the highest order. (As a software engineer by trade, I say that with the greatest respect.)

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