Here's something cute, following along the language talk the other day. See if you can read this:

Hint: The plaintext is in English. You don't need to know Chinese to read it, but knowing something about how Chinese works might help. Priming not required, although depending on how flexible your recognition vocabulary is, it might be faster to guess some chunks from context rather than reading them explicitly.


  1. (Qs and Vs were doing my brain in for a minute there.)

    Square word calligraphy by David B Kelley
    Article one of the universal declaration of human rights
    all human beings are born free and equal in dignity
    and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and
    should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

  2. Wow, do I feel dim. I was getting one letter/number per "character" and trying to go from there. (Admittedly I'm quite under the weather at the moment, which doesn't help, but I haven't taken anything but ibuprofen.)

    1. Being sick kills logic. I happen to have hacking plague right now, as I traditionally do over holiday weekends, so I can corroborate. Y'get yer T-cells all clogged up in your thinking tubes.

      The only reason I say knowing *about* Chinese helps even if you don't know Chinese is that it's much easier to read the letters in sequence if you're familiar with the rules for putting together kanji/hanzì -- top to bottom, left to right, outsides to insides, roughly, applied recursively to each of the individual subsections of the character. The letters in square word calligraphy are arranged more or less in the same sequence within the confines of the block. While a lot of them violate more wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey rules for putting characters together, a lot of them do not, and by sheer coincidence a couple of them are valid characters already: The B in the top row is 乃, read 'no', and in Japanese script evolved into the character の, used for the possessive and genitive cases as well as some stuff we'd consider ablative; and the one used for solo A is 人, read 'hito' in Japanese, and appropriately enough meaning person or human.


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