iPhone Arabic

Are the new Arabic airport fonts appalling? Tim at Endangered Alphabets decries the new Arabic scripts seen at the Dubai airport, preferring the reed and pen feeling of traditional Arabic script.

Most of the signs around the aircraft used this cursive, traditional Arabic script. So far, so good. But the display monitors giving the pre-flight safety instructions were a different story. The English instructions were in the same white-on-black sans serif type used on the iPhone, and to my surprise, the Arabic text was clearly a simplified or modernized form of Arabic script—a revision that had exactly the same amiably chubby rounded contours as iPhone English. Any sense that this was a handwritten script was completely gone: now it was that collision (or collusion) of printing and advertising—a font. The crisp edges of the penmanship were gone, rounded off into simpler and more upright shapes. It was sans serif Arabic, so to speak. Moreover, the bristling diacritics, which to me always make an Arabic word look like a wet black dog energetically shaking itself, had been simplified and prettified into circular dots. Even some of the running cursive connectedness of written Arabic had been broken down until the text as a whole looked the way my students’ handwriting looks: like a series of individual printed characters rather than flowing words. As if typed, in fact.

Did the Vikings miss the qualities of stone carving once their runes started being put down on vellum? Do we miss our own Palmer method orthography lessons now that the computer has entered the classroom? And by the way, what DOES Arabic sans serif iPhone script look like?

This isn’t an iPhone, but here is a sample of electronic Arabic script from an unsolicited Saudi phone message.

I can’t say it’s the type of thing I’d like to look at with a homemade nib sort of font.

At The Atlantic you can also see some of the endangered alphabets, like Syriac and Samaritan.


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