Re: Ciphers (Was: Berber/Tifinagh)

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Tue Nov 11 2003 - 02:25:53 EST

  • Next message: Don Osborn: "Re: Berber/Tifinagh"

    I'm following this discussion with some interest, as an enthusiast of
    alternative scripts for English (Deseret, Shavian) and inventor of one.
    Some random thoughts:

    I'm rather uncomfortable with labeling a script, or the usage of a
    script, a cipher simply because it is used by a minority. How large
    could such a "minority" become and still have its usage relegated to
    "cipher" status? The secrecy criterion seems a little more on track.

    I know there are other kinds of ciphers, but when I hear the term, I
    think of one-to-one "substitution" ciphers. The Pigpen cipher is the
    classic example, as someone pointed out, though it does come in

    I think such a collection of symbols A becomes a cipher for a true
    script B when it replicates the usage of symbols in B, irregularities
    and all. In the Pigpen cipher, there is a symbol for C and one for T
    and one for H, and C+H and T+H are slapped together *exactly* as they
    are in Latin to spell English words. In a substitution cipher, the word
    "chime" is spelled with those five letters, c-h-i-m-e; they just look

    In both Deseret and Shavian, "chime" is spelled as three letters,
    representing those alphabets' idea of three sounds: ch-i-m (Deseret
    𐐽𐐨𐑋, Shavian 𐑗𐑲𐑥). There is no blind adherence to English
    spelling principles, so not a cipher. In my invented alphabet, there
    are five letters, but they don't correspond to the five Latin letters
    (t-sh-a-y-m, or  if you've got Code2000 installed). No separate
    "c" and "h", and no silent "e". Therefore, not a cipher.

    In Theban and Utopian, words are spelled exactly as they would be with
    Latin letters. Only the shapes are different. To me, that's clearly a
    cipher; there's nothing arbitrary or whimsical about it.

    I was surprised and a bit dismayed to see Klingon dragged into this
    thread. Klingon was rejected not because it's a cipher, but because
    it's used only for decoration, not for communication.

    -Doug Ewell
     Fullerton, California

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