When you help someone up a hill, you get that much closer to the top yourself. -Anonymous
Question #93581 posted on 05/16/2021 8:54 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I have a challenge for you, if you're interested. Will you create a pseudo-Roman alphabet for me? By this I mean an alphabet with lots of upper- and lower-case characters that looks like Roman (and therefore English) script without quite being Roman script. Obviously, we English-speakers would recognize it as fake, but is it possible to create an alphabet that would fool someone unfamiliar with Latin script?

Obviously, if no one wants to, don't worry about it - I just thought it might be interesting to think through what makes Roman characters look "Roman" and see if you can come up with some that use those characteristics but aren't part of our alphabet. Feel free to do it on paper and take a picture if that's the easiest way.

-Not Sejong the Great

Unnecessary backstory: this curiosity was aroused by someone claiming in sacrament meeting a few weeks ago that he knew the Anthon transcript was genuine because "he knows written languages when he sees them" and "he could tell those characters were reformed Egyptian." Not trying to cast doubt on the validity of the Anthon Transcript story here, but this is a problematic claim for several reasons - the biggest being that no one actually knows what the characters on Anthon Transcript looked like. (We thought for a long time that we had a copy, but it turns out this was likely a forgery.) Additionally, this person is no linguist, and while I'm sure that he can tell the difference between real Mandarin characters and real Hangul characters, for example, I suspect he wouldn't be able to point out fake Mandarin characters from among real ones (or, in this case, fake Egyptian characters from among real ones). So his claim has stayed with me because of how stupid it was, but it led me to Google things like "pseudo mandarin" and "pseudo hangul" and then led me to wonder what a pseudo-Latin writing might look like. If you're interested in this same question but about spoken language instead of written, here's a really cool and kind of bizarre video that imagines how English sounds to non-English speakers. I guess I'm asking you to do something similar, but with writing.

A:

Dear Aziraphale,

This is a really cool question! My first thought was that there are already alphabets that look similar but are different. Just think of how cursive script isn't the same as block letters. And then there are alphabets with extremely similar characters for various foreign languages. Below I've actually written out the Greek alphabet, because particularly among the uppercase letters there are multiple familiar characters.

greek_alphabet.PNG

It also turns out that there's a font for writing in Greek: For me, I feel like trying to read this is out of reach (For me, I feel like trying to read this is out of reach). BUT WRITING IN ONLY UPPERCASE IS SLIGHTLY EASIER (BUT WRITING IN ONLY UPPERCASE IS SLIGHTLY EASIER). I actually think is really interesting to see how despite many letters in the alphabet standing out as familiar, when they're used to write out words, they becomes indecipherable in many cases.

My next thought was that previous iterations of what is now the English alphabet would probably satisfy your criteria. I highly recommend reading this Wikipedia article on the history of the English alphabet. Different letters have been phased in or out over the years, as well as things like diacritics or digraphs (refer to the Wikipedia for definitions) becoming less common. 

Alright, now I'll finally actually give you what you asked for. Here is my version of an off-English alphabet:

 20210516_132949.jpg

As a bonus, Google actually recognized this as text when I was downloading it, which I will consider as a win for this being really close to English per your specifications. Here's Google's translation of the alphabet and message.

Aa Rd Cs Do Ec Ef Sg Wh # j k 4 L 1 M m * O o P p A s R r B. TT U Vo XX* X* X X Z z
TRE poor bot 80154 brown dog ran over the Lazy fox.
- THIS message Has brought to you sourtesy of THE
100 Hour Board

 

~Anathema

A:

Dear Possibly Sequoyah,

I know this isn't exactly what you're looking for, but look at this video! This guy does a lot of cool linguistic stuff, and he first proposes his own "double capital" letters (capitalizing the capital letters), and then uses machine learning to "predict" what the capital of capital letters would look like and also the lowercase of lowercase letters. It's a pretty interesting video.

I am a huge fan of linguistic questions, so keep them coming!

-Inklings