14 thoughts on “Mysterious script

  1. This is Yiddish – but hard to read. It is indeed written in a (very) cursive Hebrew alphabet. I seem to read, right after the date:
    “Libe shvestern…” [Dear sisters…]

    Some more words I can make out without _too_ much effort:
    1st line: letter [letter (sic, in English)], erhalten [received]; 2nd line: vinshe libe shvestern [wish(es) dear sisters], letter [letter (sic, in English)]; 4th line: lezn [read], ershter [first]; 5th line: lezn [read]; 6th line: nit [not]; 7th line: es [it]
    and so on, up to the signature, which (if I’m not mistaken) reads “Tsvi”.

    … but this probably shouldn’t be too much of a mystery for Yiddish speakers who can read the _very_ cursive handwriting. I’m curious to see what others will say – hopefully a complete reading!

  2. I would be interested to know what the copyright on this is. Would it be possible to use the image? It’s a wonderful example of how a joined cursive script can develop from one that originally was not joined. I would need to know any citation information if it’s available. (Owner, origin etc.)

  3. I have the letter. As best as I can tell, this was sent to my grandmother. I am trying to determine who it is from and what it says. Ronald’s comment confirms that it is Yiddish and I am checking in with Yiddish-translation.com to see if they can translate. I have two additional letters, one this size and another smaller one. Depending on the sensitivity of the content, I may be willing to discuss the use of the image for something reasonable, such as education.

  4. Thanks, Terri-

    My interest in it is merely to compare with more usual unconnected varieties of cursive Hebrew script to show how joined letters can evolve in a given script. I would only want to use a segment of the image, not the whole thing. This is part of work I’m doing on a general theory of structure and change in scripts as a part of my research on the origins of several scripts in Indonesia and the Philippines.

  5. @Chris – Fascinating line of work, yours! I would like to know more about it (once you have it more or less complete), as the evolution of scripts has been an absorbing hobby of mine since early adulthood. Will you tell me? Thanks!

  6. @Chris – sounds very interesting. You could take a section of the PDF, just let me know what part you are going to use. I should be able to give you whatever citation information you need.

  7. Yiddish indeed.

    I read :
    Libe shvegerin Klara (Dear sister-in-law Klara)
    Ayer velkam letter hab ikh erhalten bay mayn tokhter.
    (I’ve received your welcome letter through my daughter).
    Ikh dank ayer zeyer fir ayere gute vinshe, libe shvegerin.
    (I thank you for your good wishes, dear sister-in-law).
    Ayer letter hatt mir g’makht fil fargenigen (Your letter has done me a great
    pleasure), az ayere libe kinder makhen az a sheynen lebn … (as your dear children make (live) such a beautiful life …).
    Nur ikh hab groys tsar az ayer elster zohn (zun) zol lebn iz krank mit di hasma.
    (But I have deep sorrow that your eldest son (should live) is sick with asthma (?).
    Alzo hab ikh mikh nakhg’fregt bay menshn vegn derinen.
    (Then, I have asked people about it).
    Hat men mir g’zogt az di hazma iz nit keyn krankeyt,
    (I was told that asthma isn’t a sickness,)
    es kumt fon (fun) som oder ruzen (?).
    (it comes from some vein …?).

    More to come. I need time, which I haven’t now!

  8. @Chris – a friend of mine actually developed a connected form of cursive hebrew. If you are interested by any chance I could probably send you a sample.

  9. Thanks Terri, yes, I would definitely appreciate citation information. I don’t know what portion I would use yet—it could involve only a section with a comparison of non-joined cursive Hebrew script, or a small reproduction of the whole image simply to give an overall idea of how this looks.

    Zeke- That sounds interesting; is this something he developed consciously? It would be interesting to compare any similarities or differences with what we see in this card.

    Ronald- I have dealt with this, though without going into great detail, in several conference presentations I have made on the development of indigenous scripts in the Philippines, Sumatra and Sulawesi from an informal variety of Nagari script. I will be turning this material into a book, and am working on an abstract for a conference in Germany this October, where I intend to focus in detail on the theoretical model of script structure and change rather than using the model to demonstrate the relationships between scripts as I have been doing up to now. I could send you some of my current materials, though they could do with a bit more detail in the explanations; otherwise I can send you my work when it is more complete: either my presentation for the conference in Germany, the yet-to-be-written chapter(s) of my book, or both.

    For any of you interested in taking things further, send me a message on Facebook for more information: search for christopherraymiller.

  10. @chris – I’m Zeke’s friend. I developed the script unconsciously, it’s just that my handwriting got uglier and uglier until it started to show some consistency, and now it is perfectly readable (with some guidance) and almost completely jointed.

  11. Here’s my attempt on transcription and translation.
    I’m fairly sure of it, though not of everything.
    The orthography is heavily influenced by German (it’s not always the normal Yiddish orthography), and it contains quite a few English words.
    There are some words that I couldn’t read or understand.
    So here’s the document I made. Comments are welcome.

    Montreal March 28 1928
    ליבע שוועגערין קלארא.
    Libe shvegerin Klara.
    Dear sister-in-law Klara.

    אייער וועלקאם לעטטער האב איך ערהאלטן בייא מיין טאכטער
    Ayer velkom letter hab ikh erhaltn bay mayn tokhter.
    I’ve received your welcome letter through my daughter.

    איך דאנק אייער זייער פֿיר אייערע גוטע ווינשע ליבע שוועגערין
    Ikh dank ayer zeyer fir ayere gute vinshe, libe shvegerin.
    I thank you for your good wishes, dear sister-in-law.

    אייער לעטטער האטט מיר גימאכט פֿיל פֿארגעניגענ
    Ayer letter hatt mir gimakht (gemakht) fil fargenigen,
    Your letter has done me a great pleasure,

    אז אייערע קינדער מאכן אז א שיינען לעבן אונבעשריען
    az ayere libe kinder makhen az a sheynen lebn unbeshrien (?).
    as your dear children make (live) such a beautiful life and …

    נור איך האב גרויס צער אז אייער עלסטער זאהן זאל לעבן איז קראנק מיט דיא האסמא
    Nur ikh hab groys tsar az ayer elster zohn (zun) zol lebn iz krank mit di hasma.
    But I have deep sorrow that your eldest son (should live) is sick with asthma (?).

    אלזא האב איך מיך נאך גיפֿרעגט בייא מענשן וועגן דערינען
    Alzo hab ikh mikh nakhgifregt bay menshn vegn derinen.
    Then, I have asked people about it.

    האט מען מיר גיזאגט אז דיא האזמא איז ניט קיין קראנקייט
    Hat men mir gizogt az di hazma iz nit keyn krankeyt,
    I was told that asthma isn’t a sickness,

    עס קומט פֿאן סאם אדער ריזען
    es kumt fon (fun) som oder rizen (?).
    it comes from some vein …?.

    נור מעגליך אייער זאהן פאליובעט ניט דער קלאימעט
    Nur meglikh (meglekh) ayer zohn (zun) fa(r)lyubet (farlibet ?) nit der klaymet.
    It’s possible that your son doesn’t bear the climate.

    מעגליך איהר וואנט צוא נאהנט צוא אטייך
    Meglikh ihr vohnt (voynt) tso (tsu) noent tso ateykh
    It is possible that you live too near the …

    אדער עס איז צוא דאמף ווא איהר וואהנט
    oder es iz tso damp vo ihr vohnt,
    or it is too … (dark ?) where you live,

    מעגליך אווארעמעהן פלאטץ וואלט ער גיזונד גיווען
    meglikh avaremehn platts volt er gizund (gezunt) given.
    it is possible that at another place he will be healthy.

    דיינקט איהר אז אין קאליפֿאניא, וואלט בעניע מעגליך אויך ג(ע)קענט
    Deynkt ihr az in Kalifo(r)nya, volt benye meglikh oykh gekent
    Think that in California, it would also have been possible

    א פאזישאן ווען ער קריגט רעפֿערענס פֿאן אַ דאקטער קריגען
    krigen a pazishan ven er krigt referens fon a dokter
    to get a position when he gets reference by a doctor

    איף דעם פלאט ווא ער ארבייט יעטצט
    oyf dem plat(ts) vo er arbeyt yettst
    on the place where he works now

    אז דער קליאמענט איז פאר איהם ניט גיזונד
    az der kliament (klaymet) iz far ihm nit gizund
    that the climate is not healthy for him

    זעהט א דאקטער אונד דערציילט איהם אוואו איהר וואוינט
    zeht a dokter und dertseylt ihm avo ihr voynt
    see a doctor and tell him where you live

    אונד אללעס ריכטיג מעגלך זייא וואלטן אייך ראטהען וואס צום טהון
    und alles rikhtig meglekh zey voltn aykh rothen vos tsum thun (ton).
    and they will advise you everything possible (about) what to do.

    ליבע שוועגערין איך וואלט אייך זייער וועלן זעהן
    Libe shvegerin ikh volt aykh zeyer veln zehn (zen).
    Dear sister-in-law, I would like very much to see you.

    נור וויא מען זעגט וייא קען איך דאס וועלן
    Nur vi men zegt vi ken ikh dos veln.
    Only as they say, how can I want this (?)

    מיר איז הייטע גאר ניט גוט וויפֿן הארצן וואס אונד ווען קען איך אייך ניט וויסשרייבן
    Mir iz hayte (haynt) gor nit gut vifn hartsn vos und ven ken ikh aykh nit visshraybn.
    I’m not well at all today, because of my heart, what and when I cannot write to you.

    פֿאן צא הויז ער איך מא אבער ניט אמבעסטן דיא שוויגער מוטטער איז גיזונד לויב גווטט
    Fon tso (tsu) hoyz er ikh mo ober nit ambestn; di shviger-mutter iz gizund loyb Got(t).
    From our house I … though not the best; the mother-in-law is healthy, thank God.

    מיינע ברידער מאטערן זיך פֿיר אלעמען זעהט למה אונד פֿרעגט זיך
    Mayne brider matern zikh fir alemen zeht lmh und fregt zikh
    My brothers plague for everything, you see …, and ask

    מענשן דייא עלטערען נאך
    nokh dey elteren menshn
    the elderly people

    אבער דאקטוּרים מעגליך עס עיז דער קלאימעט וואס אגריט ניט וויט איהם
    ober dokturim meglikh es iz der klaimet vos agrit nit vit ihm.
    but the doctors think possible that it’s the climate that doesn’t agree with him.

    איך ענדיג מיין שרייבן עונד ווינשע אייך אללעס גוטעס
    Ikh endig mayn shraybn und vinshe aykh alles gutes
    I end my writing and wish you everything good

    אונד אַ פֿריילעכן פּסח אייער גוטווינשענדע שוועגערין
    und a freylekhn peysekh ayer gutvinshende shvegerin.
    and happy Passover to you, goodwishing sister-in-law.

    Dinah (?)

  12. ateykh probably = attic just a guess! This is fascinating – I love seeing the kinds of ways that English words become part of languages in immigrant communities in North America. This is the first time I’ve seen it with Yiddish, but in Italian in Canada it’s a pretty well-documented fact.

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