A brace of brainteasers from The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book by Alex Bellos
In the 20th century, the most famous crusader for sensible spelling was the playwright George Bernard Shaw. When he died in 1950, he left money in his will for the invention and promotion of a phonetic alphabet, stipulating that the letters should be as distinct from the Latin alphabet as possible, so readers didn’t think that the new script was just bad spelling. Within a few years of his death, a competition for a new alphabet had been launched. One of the four winners, Ronald Kingsley Read (a beautiful example of nominative determinism), amalgamated their entries and named the collective invention the “Shavian alphabet”. Almost all the money allocated to spelling reform in Shaw’s will paid for Penguin to publish, in 1962, an edition of his play, Androcles and the Lion, in both the Shavian and Latin alphabets. It is unclear, however, if the Shavian section was ever read.
SURE SURE, MR SHAW
The list on the left has five phrases that use the Shavian alphabet. The transliterations on the right are listed in random order. Match the phrases to their correct transliterations.
Some Shavian characters come in pairs, such as 𐑕 and 𐑟, 𐑓 and 𐑝. By thinking about the sounds these characters make, what is the character for ‘b’?
Check the solutions here.
Puzzle taken from The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book by Alex Bellos (Guardian Faber Publishing).