February 25, 2007

Script quiz

Via Adam Wells, a question from the Ikea Hacker forum: what script and language is this, and what does it say?

Or is it a calligraphic equivalent of lorem ipsum? If you think you know, tell me and I'll post the answers.

[Update -- even though there was a typo in my mailto address above (now fixed), Andrew West managed to get through to me with this information:

The script is the "headless" cursive style of Tibetan. The large word says zhwa mo "hat", and the accompanying text translates as something like "whoever has a head has a hat". Tibetan text below:


Note that you'll need a Tibetan font to view the text that Andrew gives us.

Next question: what's the source of the text -- a traditional proverb? a Buddhist saying? a Swedish invention translated into many languages? And what interpretations were intended or assumed by its authors, its transmitters or the folks at Ikea who chose it for their wall decoration?

For example, does it have something to do with the traditional association between Buddhist sects and hat colors, thus meaning something along the lines of "like it or not, you need to take sides in sectarian conflicts"?

This reminds me of the old joke about a conversation between a native of Belfast and an American:

Belfast: Are you a protestant or a catholic?
U.S.: Well, neither one, actually. As it happens, I'm a jew.
Belfast: All right, but are you a protestant jew or a catholic jew?


Posted by Mark Liberman at February 25, 2007 08:13 AM