Sunday, December 14, 2008


A stop sign from Iqaluit in Nunavut. The Inuit writing system, like other indigenous systems, was artificially created to serve the needs of an oral culture. It is a beautiful script which seems to reflect an almost pictographic representation of Inuit-styled art. It also always looks Helvetica-like to me, as if it came from a parallel Helvetica universe, which I guess it does. What would it look like in Gothic? or a very curvaceous Italic?


A poem inspired by Omegaword and a friend's anecdote.


the stars have
tiny cars because
in space there are
so few places to drive

they have tiny ears
because there is little
to hear
except for oneself

she was learning to drive
in the empty parking lot.
“oh god!” she said
slamming on the brakes

“what?” I asked
“I was imagining
a stop sign,” she said
“I went right through it.”


Two semi-colon images for Mike Cannell:


mike di tomasso said...


a little punctuation poem for you there:)

Chris said...

To be fair, all writing systems were artificially created to serve the needs of an oral culture, even our own. But we've had a bit longer to break in our shoes.

gary barwin said...


You make a good point. I realized that how I put it was a bit strange as I was writing it. What is "artificial" vs. "natural" when it comes to written language? And speech (oral culture) came first in all naturally evolving languages.

I guess I should have been more clear in stating how the orthographic system was created by outsiders and came much later than the pre-established oral culture.

This process has always fascinated me. What would it be like hearing a language and then having to create a writing system -- one both functional yet aesthetically appealing as well as simpatico with the culture? How do you take cross-sections of a river? Creating a writing system would be a bit like being the Muybridge of oral culture.

Jeff said...

Heh. Reminds me of my own daughter's driving lessons in an empty parking lot. Unfortunately, she later ignored a real stop sign on an actual road, which wasn't nearly as much fun. I'm sure Inuit would have grabbed her attention, though — fascinating it is.

gary barwin said...

And I remember teaching my sister-in-law to drive late one night. She went flying through a stop sign without even looking. "!" I exclaimed. "Oh, how many people are likely to be driving on that road at this time of night...."

My eldest son (very nearly 18) is just finishing driving lessons and will soon take his driving test. It's been a harrowing experience. And that's just his experience of lessons with me...

My father-in-law used to repeat non-stop the Jewish prayer for the dead when he took my wife driving.