ꙮꙮꙮ Be Not Afraid ꙮꙮꙮ
September 19, 2022 1:32 PM   Subscribe

ꙮ: The Scariest Letter in the World

The letter appears only once in the wild. In a 1429 edition of the Book of Psalms written in Old Church Slavonic. "серафими многоꙮчитїи" which translates to "many-eyed seraphim".

ꙮ was included in Unicode 5.1. As of Unicode 15, it will be corrected. The original Unicode character has seven eyes. The version in the book has ten and the revised character will also have 10.

Multiocular O from Wikipedia

Related:

Ꙩ - Monocular O
Ꙫ - Binocular O
Ꙭ - Double Monocular
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary (66 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
THIS IS MY FAVORITE UNICODE GLYPH!!!!!!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:37 PM on September 19 [10 favorites]


 ~~~
~~~~
 ~~~

makes sense
posted by flabdablet at 1:44 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


This is why it's my fave glyph:

Most Proto-Indo-European languages had a grammatical number for nouns between the singular and plural called the dual. That is, we have "cat" and "cats," but most PIE languages had a special form for things in pairs. A lot of Celtic and Slavic languages preserve at least some dual forms. English retains only a few. "One/both/all" is one. "Either" and "neither" are also holdover dual forms, where grammatically you can technically only use them for two things -- "either this or that" but not "either this or that or this third thing" -- in case you ever wondered why you can't use "neither" for three things. (In Slavic languages, a really common dual form, even in languages that have otherwise dropped it, is "riverbanks.")

ANYWAY, in some Old Church Slavonic manuscripts, where a dual form was used (most often to say "two"), the scribes would turn "two" -- двое-- into двꚙе with the "double O" glyph.

Some OTHER scribes thought this was amazing, so specifically in the word "eyes" -- "очи" -- which is a dual-form noun because they typically come in twos, they'd use the "double monocular O" (Ꙭ, aka "boobs") to make two Os and turn them into eyes, thus: ꙭчи. See? TWO EYES!

WELL. ANOTHER scribe comes along and says, "two eyes? Seraphim have MANY eyes!" and when he comes to the phrase "many-eyed seraphim (Серафими мн҄оочитїи), he chooses to render it as "Серафими мн҄оꙮ҄читїи҄". CAUSE THEY'VE GOT A LOT OF EYES, y'all.

ONE TIME. This occurs ONE TIME in ONE MANUSCRIPT, but Unicode is dedicated to making sure manuscripts can be replicated accurately in unicode, so in 2008 we get a multiocular O.

BUT IT GETS EVEN MORE AWESOME, because they're updating it to the full 10!. Although do look at the manuscript and note that the original 10-eyed multiocular O has FLAMES LICKING OUT ON THE SIDES, so Unicode should get on that!

Anyway, I 100% approve of literally all of this, because there is nothing I love as much as TAKING A JOKE WAY TOO FAR, especially when the joke is more than 600 years old.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:48 PM on September 19 [151 favorites]


They should keep adding eyes. With increasingly implausible and anxious justifications.
posted by steveminutillo at 1:50 PM on September 19 [16 favorites]


I'm just hungry for Honeycomb cereal now.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:53 PM on September 19 [17 favorites]


They should keep adding eyes. With increasingly implausible and anxious justifications.

While simultaneously reassuring the public that nothing unusual is happening.
posted by Horkus at 1:54 PM on September 19 [10 favorites]


Unicode is dedicated to making sure manuscripts can be replicated accurately in unicode

So emoji are in there to do illuminations?
posted by flabdablet at 1:56 PM on September 19 [7 favorites]


Eye Guy
posted by eye of newt at 1:59 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


H̷̨͈̖̻̺͈͖̻͚̰̜̠̗͑̈́͗̔̾̈̈͛̀͠Ę̴̺̟̩͉͈̹̖̥͈̻̬͖̲̘͚̝̍̃̔̔͆̓̾͗̃̈́̐̂͋͝͝ ̴̡̢͙̱̱͉̱̭͓̞͔̥̟̺͛̆̑͊͐̀̂͛͛͒̄̚͠͝C̸̼̱͓͕̬̦͙̘̣̗̗̥͔̠͗̽́͂̏̏̈́̐̇̔̊̆͝ ̴̛͙͙̼̖͒̈́͑́́̆̊͋͑͝͝͝ꙮ̷̻̻͓͊̂̏̋͝͝M̸̻͔͉̥̞͖̪͔͈̾̌̉̓̈̂̾̋͠Ĕ̷̡̛̛̟͎͈̪̜̙̺̥͇̙̹͚͗̌̌́̆͗͝S̷̠̞̲͊̅̓̕
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:01 PM on September 19 [14 favorites]


So emoji are in there to do illuminations?

🐌🤺
posted by logicpunk at 2:04 PM on September 19 [43 favorites]


the original 10-eyed multiocular O has FLAMES LICKING OUT ON THE SIDES, so Unicode should get on that!

Preferably by adding them to the combining diacritical marks block, because flames licking out on the sides of things has real potential for widespread use.

I could use some for the side of my face that the leopards didn't eat yet.
posted by flabdablet at 2:04 PM on September 19 [26 favorites]


This character is good and nice but ﷽ (U+FDFD ARABIC LIGATURE BISMILLAH AR-RAHMAN AR-RAHEEM) is my favorite printing character, and U+034F COMBINING GRAPHEME JOINER (which does NOT join graphemes) is my favorite character of all, for reasons described in the preceding parenthetical.
posted by conorh at 2:10 PM on September 19 [20 favorites]


¯\(ꙮ_ꙮ)/¯
posted by flabdablet at 2:19 PM on September 19 [45 favorites]


I see 5 waffle fries
posted by clavdivs at 2:29 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


Man, I've heard of hapax legomenon, but one character used one time in one text? That's ridiculous. I love it.
posted by adamrice at 2:34 PM on September 19 [8 favorites]


Yeah, so I might just have unearthed a half-written Good Omens fic on the topic of Crowley and standards processes...
posted by humbug at 2:36 PM on September 19 [9 favorites]


In Slavic languages, a really common dual form, even in languages that have otherwise dropped it, is "riverbanks."

How confusing. If you ask me this dual form grammar thing is pants.
posted by traveler_ at 2:50 PM on September 19 [16 favorites]



I see 5 waffle fries


man, picard's new answer to that question is not cutting it at all
posted by lalochezia at 2:56 PM on September 19 [14 favorites]


This is one of MIchael Everson's proposals. He's a regular contributor to the Unicode Technical Committee, and his proposal documents (in the UTC Document Register) are pretty much always interesting reading - he's really good at finding and explaining weird corner cases in writing systems.
posted by offog at 3:09 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


Now I want some honeycomb.
posted by emelenjr at 3:12 PM on September 19 [3 favorites]


And then there are the ghost kanji; Japanese ideographs with neither meaning nor pronounciation which originated in bureaucratic mistakes and/or photocopier malfunctions in the 1970s when the JIS was standardising computer encodings for kanji, and ended up in Unicode because nothing that's in use gets removed.
posted by acb at 3:13 PM on September 19 [20 favorites]


One guy uses this character in one manuscript, and Unicode adopts it. But millions of people dot their "i"s with hearts, and nothing. I don't know. ¯\(💔_💔)/¯
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:18 PM on September 19 [28 favorites]


COMBINING HEART DECORATION
posted by acb at 3:19 PM on September 19 [9 favorites]


Also, emoji facial expressions and/or decorations should be combining characters. Why shouldn't you be able to make a PILE OF POO with nerd glasses and its tongue sticking out if that best suits what you wish to express?

(And yes, I am aware that there are practical reasons for not doing this, mainly because doing so would require either a lot more graphic assets (one for each possible combination) or a much smarter graphics engine. Though it could possibly be handled like typographical ligatures for digraphs: the facial-expression parts and container shapes being standardised, with a few combinations that particularly benefit from custom treatment getting their own hand-drawn emoji ligature.)
posted by acb at 3:22 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


It doesn't look like anything to me.
posted by whir at 3:33 PM on September 19 [6 favorites]


The lower case surly must be a gibbering mouther.
posted by clavdivs at 3:40 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


That reminds me, I'd better start getting my paperwork together for my security clearance.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 4:04 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


acb, about combining emoji, this is a previously here but I don't have the thread link to hand: you want https://emoji.supply/kitchen/
posted by jzed at 4:07 PM on September 19 [3 favorites]


Paging Phil Dick:

IT WAS quite by accident I discovered this incredible invasion of Earth by lifeforms from another planet. As yet, I haven’t done anything about it; I can’t think of anything to do. I wrote to the Government, and they sent back a pamphlet on the repair and maintenance of frame houses. Anyhow, the whole thing is known; I’m not the first to discover it. Maybe it’s even under control.

I was sitting in my easy-chair, idly turning the pages of a paperbacked book someone had left on the bus, when I came across the reference that first put me on the trail. For a moment I didn’t respond. It took some time for the full import to sink in. After I’d comprehended, it seemed odd I hadn’t noticed it right away.

The reference was clearly to a nonhuman species of incredible properties, not indigenous to Earth. A species, I hasten to point out, customarily masquerading as ordinary human beings. Their disguise, however, became transparent in the face of the following observations by the author. It was at once obvious the author knew everything. Knew everything — and was taking it in his stride. The line (and I tremble remembering it even now) read:

… his eyes slowly roved about the room.

Vague chills assailed me. I tried to picture the eyes. Did they roll like dimes? The passage indicated not; they seemed to move through the air, not over the surface. Rather rapidly, apparently. No one in the story was surprised. That’s what tipped me off. No sign of amazement at such an outrageous thing. Later the matter was amplified.

… his eyes moved from person to person.

There it was in a nutshell. The eyes had clearly come apart from the rest of him and were on their own. My heart pounded and my breath choked in my windpipe. I had stumbled on an accidental mention of a totally unfamiliar race...
posted by doctornemo at 4:24 PM on September 19 [13 favorites]


The challenge to do it as a Halloween costume is very tempting. An ancestor of mine was obsessed with Church Slavonic.
posted by acrasis at 4:52 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


I'm imagining trying to explain this development to the scribe that originally created this "letter".
posted by Hatashran at 5:04 PM on September 19 [9 favorites]


"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" was always my favorite Communion anthem, mostly for the lines about "The Cherubim with many eyes, and winged Seraphim, who veil their faces." (My favorite setting of the text.)

The discussion of dual forms flashes me back to a day in Grade 3 when the teacher was talking about plural nouns. She'd say a singular noun and the class was supposed to respond with "one;" then she'd say a plural noun and we were supposed to respond with "more than one." Except, almost every single time, there would always be a few kids calling out "two" instead of "more than one." So I can absolutely see why singular/dual/plural was a thing. It's the same sort of thing as new forms of the second person plural pronoun springing up after the discontinuation of thou/you.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:09 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


This is immensely pleasing. (Do I have any actual use for it? Nꙮ! Will that stop me from abusing it? Also nꙮ!)
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 6:09 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


For a while there we were flirting with uppercase and lowercase numbers, why shouldn’t ancient horrors get the same courtesy.
posted by mhoye at 6:26 PM on September 19 [6 favorites]


Attack of the The Eye Creatures!
posted by TedW at 6:53 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


Bee not afraid, surely.
posted by genpfault at 7:10 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


ꙩ Ꙫ ꙭ ꙮ Mitosis! And the formation of a a blastocyst!
posted by condour75 at 7:25 PM on September 19 [19 favorites]


but Unicode is dedicated to making sure manuscripts can be replicated accurately

Well, that's good. Although the vellum suppliers like to claim that their product is "green", we all know it's not really sustainable, and with the number of copies one needs to make for a proper Summoning these days, it's no wonder so many practitioners of the Knowledge have switched to tablets.

And trust me, you really don't want to be halfway through a ritual, everyone standing atop the San Andreas Fault or the Caldera of the Sleeping One in Yellowstone (lodging costs alone are killer), obsidian knives and hogtied subcontractor interns at the ready, only to suddenly discover that the demon you're trying to invite up for tea and virgins is only represented as "������". That's how you end up "pulling a Hewlett-Packard", as the saying goes.

US-ASCII might have been fine back in the 70s, when the state of the art was a bunch of MIT nerds trying to get laid by calling up some mildly-peeved East Coast witches, or even the 80s when the Rt. 128 companies were burning all that DARPA cash messing around with the Berghof Collection, but it's not web scale.

Plus, there's just no way that a modern corporation can be competitive without looking outside the traditional ISO 8859 nightmare-canon for talent. It's a globalized world, and if we want to have alternatives to government-sponsored companies like ByteDance who can afford to have blood-cooled server rooms for meme generation, we need to enable the next generation of entrepreneurs to leverage the full interdimensional spectrum of horrors.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:23 PM on September 19 [38 favorites]


They should keep adding eyes. With increasingly implausible and anxious justifications.

Next stop: The Black Beast of Aaaaargghh
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:49 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


My heart rejoices to know we will be ever closer to properly writing the name of the JꙮMꙮS WꙮBB SPꙮCꙮ TꙮLꙮSCꙮPꙮ.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:12 PM on September 19 [12 favorites]


"but mꙮm!"
posted by Clowder of bats at 9:23 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


It doesn't look like anything to me.

Look behind you.
posted by mmoncur at 9:36 PM on September 19 [8 favorites]


Maybe I should take this to Ask, but can anyone tell me why I can see these glyphs on my iPhone but not my Mac? I’m still on Big Sur, but if this was in Unicode 5.1 that shouldn’t be a problem surely? The Arabic ligature is displaying correctly, but none of the versions of Os with dots in. I can see them in the character viewer but not on Safari.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:43 AM on September 20


Have you tried resetting the Prayer RAM?
posted by flabdablet at 3:36 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth all of the characters work on my Mac running Monterey in Safari. Although the seraphim still has only seven eyes.
posted by mmoncur at 3:42 AM on September 20


Christ, what an eyehole!

I tried to picture the eyes. Did they roll like dimes?

"You're going to read me my sins?"
posted by loquacious at 3:43 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


you want https://emoji.supply/kitchen/

Except that without Unicode encodings for the combinations, it's just another image generator.

(Well, there's Gboard, so make that an image generator with tendrils of the Google surveillance-capitalism engine reaching through it.)
posted by acb at 4:04 AM on September 20


If this character doesn't find its way into the next Laundry Files book, I will be disappointed.
posted by adamrice at 6:11 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure that cstross has this on his keyboard.

(Also: jinx!)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:27 AM on September 20


I mean, the Biblically Accurate Angels always say "Be Not Afraid", but it never works.

I guess updates to Unicode are similar, in that there's always one more weird edge-case scenario to be codified, but we never seem to get a decent emoji assembler.
posted by mephron at 6:34 AM on September 20


Is this the thread were we share our favorite Unicode tidbits? More please.

Those ancient scribes sure knew how to party, and the Unicode Consortium is here to assist with the faithful reproduction of such.

The Unicode Standard Version 13.0
Chapter 8: Europe-II (Ancient and Other Scripts)
Section 8.12: Ogham:
Ogham is an alphabetic script devised to write a very early form of Irish. Monumental Ogham inscriptions are found in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and on the Isle of Man.
...
The script was originally written along the edges of stone where two faces meet; when written on paper, the central “stemlines” of the script can be said to represent the edge of the stone.
...
U+169B OGHAM FEATHER MARK and U+169C OGHAM REVERSED FEATHER MARK are used at the beginning and the end of Ogham text, particularly in manuscript Ogham.
...
The word latheirt ᚛ᚂᚐᚈᚆᚓᚔᚏᚈ᚜ shows the use of the feather marks. This word was written in the margin of a ninth-century Latin grammar and means “massive hangover,” which may be the scribe’s apology for any errors in his text.
posted by easyasy3k at 8:31 AM on September 20 [7 favorites]


There was a good r/AskHistorians post from a few months ago (probably inspired by the planned update) gets into some more technical details about why and how ꙮ was added to Unicode in the first place.
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:06 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


> The word latheirt ᚛ᚂᚐᚈᚆᚓᚔᚏᚈ᚜ shows the use of the feather marks. This word was written in the margin of a ninth-century Latin grammar and means “massive hangover,” which may be the scribe’s apology for any errors in his text.

literally, "Ale [Lait] + killed [ort], i.e. ale has killed us, that is ale drinking."
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:31 AM on September 20 [4 favorites]


One of the small pleasures about being Jewish, for me at least, is informing people about the Book of Ezekiel, where angels range from "weird" to "Lovecraftian horror." Want that machine from Contact made of brass and covered in eyeballs? We got you. Does the idea of cherubim being cute little babies with a mere two wings not excite you? Fear not, our cherubim are three animal heads and one human head with six wings. How does the idea of large humanoids on fire screaming out how awesome G-d is sound? Because we got that too.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 11:47 AM on September 20 [16 favorites]


> > The word latheirt ᚛ᚂᚐᚈᚆᚓᚔᚏᚈ᚜...
> literally, "Ale [Lait] + killed [ort], i.e. ale has killed us...
Figuratively, it begs out loud to be rendered as "Ale-hurt."
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 12:15 PM on September 20 [4 favorites]


informing people about the Book of Ezekiel

I am not Jewish but can back you up on Ezekiel. When I was a kid stuck in my boring evangelical church, I used to read various books of the Bible as a way of ignoring the interminable sermons. Ezekiel was one of my favorites. It opens hard with the multiocular angels making their grand entrance. Just gets kinda weirder from there. My favorite part was the desert wastelands where the bones of dead armies lay. And then God summons the soldiers to fight again, and the bones knit themselves back into bodies. Really a great horror (or zombie) post-apocalypse visual written centuries before those things entered pop culture.

My other favorite part about Ezekiel and the seraphim was the part they played in the 70's UFO craze. Those passages were quoted often in articles with breathless headlines like "UFOs are Real and in the Bible!" As a slightly credulous kid, I loved that stuff.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 12:21 PM on September 20 [7 favorites]


¯\(ꙮ_ꙮ)/¯

Would make an excellent MeFi t-shirt.
posted by DigDoug at 12:48 PM on September 20 [3 favorites]


I mean, the Biblically Accurate Angels always say "Be Not Afraid", but it never works.

I'm sure I'm not unique in this, but the first words I ever spoke on stage were, "Fear not!" I was six years old and playing the angel in the school Nativity play. But it's been a good luck charm against stage fright ever since.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:05 PM on September 20 [3 favorites]


> Unicode is dedicated to making sure manuscripts can be replicated accurately in unicode

This is only an issue because the original scribe didn't think to use a sans-seraph font.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:03 PM on September 20 [26 favorites]


possibly best dad-joke ever
posted by mbo at 11:19 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


They should keep adding eyes. With increasingly implausible and anxious justifications.

BECAUSE you see, they've got SO MANY EYES! It's FUNNY!
posted by JHarris at 1:25 AM on September 21 [2 favorites]


Fear not, our cherubim are three animal heads and one human head with six wings. How does the idea of large humanoids on fire screaming out how awesome G-d is sound? Because we got that too.

So, uh, exactly how much DMT are you guys smoking over there?


I mean, the Biblically Accurate Angels always say "Be Not Afraid", but it never works.

BE NOT AFRA... wait, wait, no, seriously, we're cool! We just want to give you a hug!

Ah, bloody hell, not again. Yep, they all fainted again, Bob. The whole group. Well except for that one goth weirdo and she's looking at us like a we're a free pack of cloves and a bottle of absinthe and it's kind of creeping me out. Uh, hi there. Yep, cool, cool.

Yeah, no, Bob. I don't think that the rainbow unicorn kigurumi onesie helped at all, in fact I think it made it worse. I know God is wise and all of that but I still think we really should probably re-think this whole ten thousand-thousand flaming eyes and sudden, earth-shakingly loud voice booming "BE NOT AFRAID" thing we've been doing because it's obviously not working.

They're simple people, Bob. Anything more than two eyes freaks them out. They can barely handle eight eyes on a tiny harmless spider. No, Bob, I really don't think a spider kigurumi costume is going to help things one bit. Stop cackling, for Job's sake. There's something very wrong with you, Bob, you know that?

Seriously, have you seen us? We look like a really bad trip, man, like a whole H.R. Giger meets Alex Gray situation. Covering half the eyes with wings doesn't help at all. Covering them all just makes more fire. Keeping them all uncovered isn't good either and it's giving me a raging headache trying to get them to blink all at the same time.

Then there's the fire. I mean, really? Why all the fire? God definitely knows they're absolutely mortally terrified of fire and yet for some reason he has it coming out of us all over the place like a Burning Man art car. Wait, seriously? What is Burning Man? Bob, you've been there like three times now, you degenerate burnout. Do you seriously not remember absolutely terrifying like 5000 dirty ravers thizzing their face off at that Robot Heart party?

Anyway, I mean it's kind of obvious the boss up there taking the piss and laughing at all of this. You can't convince me that this isn't an elaborate prank. He absolutely has to be messing with us and he just thinks it's hilarious to send us down here armed only with "be not afraid!" when we look like relentless flaming nightmare fuel.

Damn it, Bob, stop flirting with the goth weirdo, you're going to get us in trouble again.
posted by loquacious at 5:20 AM on September 21 [7 favorites]


Saying "BE NOT AFRAID" is a lot like saying "don't think of an elephant".
posted by heatherlogan at 9:25 AM on September 21 [6 favorites]


It's a mis-translation. The original was, "You lot will be frayed."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:51 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]


“Well, then, if I’m a Namer, what does that mean? What does a Namer do?”

The wings drew together, the eyes closed, singly, and in groups, until all were shut. Small puffs of mist-like smoke rose, swirled about him. “When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.”

posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:41 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


> (Ꙭ, aka "boobs")

Well if you really want to commit to this 600-year-old joke then bꙭbs, surely. They come in pairs, right?

Unfortunately Galactic Unicode hadn't been fully developed when the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy was published, so it didn't properly render the text about Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-bꙩꙩꙩbed sex worker of Eroticon 6. Or the part about Excessiva Gallumbits, her many-bꙮbed cousin from Eroticon 7.

(I'll get my coat.)
posted by automatronic at 5:16 AM on September 23 [4 favorites]


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