Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fun With Egyptian Hieroglyphics!

I joined a new Yahoo group recently and got to talking about Hieroglyphics. Since I have yet to ramble on about my love of hieroglyphics here, I figured it would be a good topic for the day:D I have been fascinated with hieroglyphs since elementary school. I didn't really learn much about them, though, until college where I was lucky enough to take Intro to Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics. I say lucky because my last quarter in school was the first time the class was offered. I loved that class! I got a bit frustrated with the drawing part (my drawings have not improved since kindergarten). I only wish I had been able to hang around and minor in Egyptology! I think this goes back to the days when I wanted to be an archaeologist/paleontologist. But let me continue with hieroglyphs before I send myself off on a tangent.

While Hieroglyphics is a language, there is a lot more mystery involved than in a lot of modern languages. A key thing being that the Ancient Egyptians didn't write their vowels. Therefore pronunciation of the words is open to interpretation. Also, the Egyptians were phonetic spellers. One of my biggest pet peeves with those "Your name in hieroglyphics!" machines is that they just try to translate letter for letter. That gets a little hard when some of common letters and sounds don't exist! I understand that logistics makes things difficult and for those out there names, you have no other option, but it still bugs me:P

Anyway, as an example, take my name. In English, I spell it M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E. Here's how it might look if I entered those letters into one of those machines:
The problem? Phonetically, this wouldn't be close to the way my name sounds. I would be something resembling Mik-heely. Here's the way I would write it (though even that is open to interpretation):

You notice that the first two letters in each representation are the same. The owl represents the M and the leaf is the closest thing to the "I" sound in my name (we translate it to be the letter I). Now the CH in my version is completely different because phonetically it sounds like sh as in show. The pool represents the sh sound, while the basket and twisted rope represent the letters C (more like a phonetic K or a hard C) and H respectively (there's also a glyph that represents the sound ch as in chair-- some programs may recognize this, some may not). Finally, the double leaf that the machine inserts is the closest character to the letter e, but is a long e sound so it's usually used to represent y and not e. The E's in my name are *not* long E's. Therefore, I leave that out. And finally, while there are two L's in my name, phonetically only one is needed which is why I have only one lion.

So there ends the brief Hieroglyphics lesson. Sorry it sort of turned into a rant:P There's a lot more to hieroglyphics, so if you'd like to learn more about Hieroglyphs or find the symbols for your name, I got the above pictures from this site. I did edit and paste the letters together using photoshop though. I'm happy to attempt to make your name if you want to see it as long as it isn't for commercial use (as the owner of the site mentioned above stipulates) or you have the site owner's permission.

***Editing to add the comment below***

Okay, I wanted to add another site (click here) that has a more complete listing of the Hieroglyphic "alphabet."

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