The new hieroglyphics


Hieroglyphs are one of the most ancient forms of writing known. It wasn’t until 1822 that it was possible, thanks to French Egyptologist Jean Francois Champollion, to read them. He managed to start the process of translating them into our more modern form of writing.

Of course the word hieroglyph is not an ancient egyptian word (I wonder if they have a hieroglyph for hieroglyph?) They believed that writing was invented by the god Thoth and called their script god’s words. The word itself comes from the Greek hieros (sacred) plus glypho (inscriptions) – a literal translation.

There are several examples of glyphs used as writing across the world.

At Thinking Digital this year we heard an excellent talk by Sarah Wiseman, Lecturer of Computer Science at Goldsmiths, University of London on Why does 🍕mean “I love you?”’ She talked about the rise of emojis in social media and how they are not always used in the way that they were intended. It was a very funny and enlightening presentation and got me thinking about the similarities between emojis and hieroglyphs.

Perhaps emojis are the new hieroglyphs and we are reverting back from a letter based form of writing to a more pictorial form, or at least a hybrid form. It is an interesting concept for us in the western world yet there are many languages that are written in character sets already. Perhaps emojis are more akin then to character writing. Either way, is it possible that in future we won’t use words at all, only emojis to communicate?

I spoke to Sarah in one of the breaks and said that I was going to try and write a story only using emojis but that is going to be harder than I thought. It is also for another blog.

In the meantime my thoughts have moved onto using a cartouche. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval around some characters indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. This must be a good place to start. I have no claim to royalty but here is who I am (less the oval):


🎃👨  Jackman

🆕🏰  Newcastle

It’s a work in progress…

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