Wednesday, May 9, 2012

English–Old Irish Ambigrams

The second batch of multilingual ambigrams I tried my hand at [1] was English with Old Irish. Old Irish technically has its own alphabet [2], like Thai does, but it is usually written using an uncial font. Most of the Irish/Gaelic/Celtic fonts that I found were pretty similar to uncial fonts, so I decided to go with that rather than continue searching for a malleable font for the Old Irish alphabet. So, for this round of multilingual ambigrams I consulted a font called Inversion.[3]

NOTE: to pause the animated .gif images, simply hit the ESC key on your keyboard. To resume, hit the refresh button on your browser.

The next multilingual ambigram combines my name in English with its equivalent in Old Irish, Mathúin. Mathúin is actually not a direct translation of Matthew. It comes from the Irish Gaelic word mathghamain, which means "bear".[4] Its spelling is so close to Matthew, though, that they are used as translational equivalents of each other.

And, as before, I did the same with Leann's name. Again, the Ann portion of her name had an equivalent (Áine), but the Le[ah] portion did not.[5] So I made do with just adding Le- to the beginning. As in times past, I used fading to de-emphasize letters that I didn't want the reader to notice from a particular direction (in this case both the Es of Leáine). Even so, I feel like the E at the end of Leáine looks more like a T.

The of the two translations of the word lily into Old Irish, I chose cuirinín.[6] It was one letter longer than Lillian's name, but to make matters worse, it was just too convenient to use the is as reverses for each other and the ns in cuirinín for the ls in Lillian. That left me with four letters (cuir-) to match to two (-an). Combining the ir into the a was pretty obvious [7] and that left the u and the n for each other, which wasn't hard to do. But that left the c completely unmatched. I played around a lot with that to incorporate it. I finally settled on having it be a swoosh coming off the n of Lillian. Almost as an afterthought I made it green and added a Stargazer lily to the end.


[1] See the first batch, which are English–Thai ambigrams, here.

[2] See orthography.

[3] You can preview or purchase it here.

[4] Sometimes it is anglicized as Mahon. Seeúin. See also (name).

[5] I briefly thought about adding laigh, which means "bed" (source, scroll down) and is etymologically related to the English word lie (as in lie down). Since it really had nothing to do with the meaning of Leann's name and because it made the name much too long for an ambigram (Laigháine has four more letters than Leann), I decided to forgo it.

[6] See (scroll down). The other option was bioras, which was harder to work with, so I went with cuirinín. See

[7] I am rather pleased with the decision to make the swoosh of the a cut into one side instead of blending it in. I feel this makes the ir more legible.

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