David Walsh | Posted on May 13, 2013

The museum urn collection is stupidly growing, and its growing is stupefying me. I'm exhausted and sad and sick of being serious. Exploration and explanation will come later, if at all. I'm posting something frivolous.

It may come as some surprise to you that it is possible to read even if all words have their vowels replaced by a marker, in essence meaning that all vowels are represented by a single vowel. With practice it is feasible to read a text even if the vowels are removed altogether.

The reason English has written vowels is that ancient Greek had written vowels. And the reason early Greek had written vowels is that they didn't have as many spoken consonants. This became significant when the Greeks co-opted the Phoenician script. Phoenicians didn't write vowels, but they had more letters than the Greeks has consonants. The Greeks put the excess letters to good use as representatives of vowel sounds.

S f y cn rd ths y mght hv md a gd Phncn. -nd -f y-- c-n't r--d th-s - c-n c-ll y-- -n -d--t w-th -mp-n-ty.

If all that is so, and it is, why do newspapers print expletives with a '*', instead of a vowel? Is there anyone that can read, who is otherwise insufficiently well informed so as to be unable to perform a much-simplified version of the transformation that all literate Phoenicians performed as a matter of course?

Do those f*cking c*nts think we are f*cking morons, or what?


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Nancy Mauro-Flude | May 13, 2013 at 02:35 pm

Iinterpret that the * is just a reappropriated wild card .* from Regular-Expressions

Kylie | May 13, 2013 at 02:38 pm

I don't know that I would call a post on the derivation of written english and the potential uselessness of written vowels as frivolous. Surely a frivolous post would include a lolcat or some other internet meme :-)

ztealady | May 13, 2013 at 02:16 pm

I also have another little urn you could add to your collection. :D

Spiced Ham (@speistam) | May 13, 2013 at 02:12 pm

Ths fckng cnts nt nly thnk f s s mrns, thy rly n s t b s.

ztealady | May 13, 2013 at 02:15 pm

Its only maiden aunts who don't know what f*** or c*** is. They are getting less though cos it is being breed out of us. But Maiden aunts still work in the censorship bureau.:D

Phil Patterson | May 13, 2013 at 04:55 pm

*'m g*nn* g*t *nt* *n* *f th*s* l*ttl* f*ck*n *rns *f *t k*lls m*!

Natasha Frisch | May 13, 2013 at 02:07 pm

sounds like you need another registrar... why not hire me?

Required | May 13, 2013 at 04:18 pm

I have no response to that

shuvus | May 13, 2013 at 02:27 pm

I think it is particularly easy to unravel for Australians who seem to shwaa all their vowel sounds. We generally use our lower jaw for making all our vowel sounds. I usually tell American friends who have difficulty understanding our accent that by placing your finger on your upper lip they will be able to recreate our accent. Whereas as an Australian who wants to speak with an American accent simply has to place their thumb under their jaw and force the upper pallet into action. as for the vowel sounds ...we don't have 5 as written, we have 13 vowel sounds and 7 diphthongs.
the 13 vowel sounds are these
And the 7 diphthongs are

David Patman | May 13, 2013 at 05:25 pm

Q: What's a Grecian urn?
A: Not as much as they used to.

John Dalton (@johndalton) | May 14, 2013 at 09:56 am

Now that you've added in the hyphens I look like a right idiot.

Jane Gadd | May 14, 2013 at 02:12 pm

I find it quite amazing that we can do so well without vowels,when I spent so many years teaching the wretched things in all their complexities.I still like them though.Do you think we could read just vowels with the appropriate spaces. ov. a e. a X

Reinhard | May 14, 2013 at 04:27 pm

Semitic languages do not use vowels in writing but only small signs to vocalise a word if it's necessary.
But there is a downsides. The Koran is fully vocalised so that it can't be misread. Today there words in the Koran, which can be pronounced correctly, but nobody knows their meaning any more.
Modern languages only need the media to become meaningless.

Nicholas Forrest | May 13, 2013 at 04:04 pm

Luckily I can read it. Not an idiot then! :-)

Sue Roff | May 13, 2013 at 02:49 pm

Thanks for making me laugh today!

Jane Rankin-Reid | May 13, 2013 at 04:44 pm

David I'm sorry to hear your urns are multiplying. The price of the fortune of being invited to reside in MONA's ambient subversive crematorium means lives must be lost.

John Dalton (@johndalton) | May 13, 2013 at 02:31 pm

I'm such a f*cking moron that I can figure out you're calling me names with impunity, but not what.