The time the Fish hit a Door and turned into a Snake

Photo by Gábor Szűts on Unsplash

I have been reading Wikipedia and Unicode for too long. I found this path pretty interesting. I assume individuals who went to school for Linguistics might already know this, and I also assume I can be completely wrong. One way to find out I guess.

Logographic Script

It seems most written language starts as Pictograms, physical representations of objects drawn. The most famous is the Egyptian Hieroglyphs dated back to 2690 BC.

𓆟 (U+1319F) Egyptian : Fish
𓉿 (U+1327F) Egyptian : Door
𓆓 (U+13193) Egyptian : Snake

Logo-Syllabic Script

Eventually these elaborate images turn into strokes on clay with a reed stylus. The earliest version of this can be dated back to 2600 BC. This is referred to as Cuneiform.

🔹Sumerian 2600 BC
🔹Archaic 2600 BC
🔹Sumero- Akkadian 2400 BC
🔹Assyrian 1700 BC
🔹Old Persian 500 BC

𒄩 (U+12129) Sumerian/Assyrian [kud]: Fish

𐏃 (U+103C3) Old Persian [ha]: Fish

𓆟 𒄩 & 𐏃

𒅅 (U+12145) Sumerian/Akkadian [ig]: Door

Assyrian cuneiform U12145 MesZL 136.svg (no Unicode) Assyrian: Door

𒆍 : (U+1218D) Sumerian/Akkadian [kan]: Door

Assyrian cuneiform U1218D MesZL 222.svg : (no Unicode) Assyrian: Door

𓉿 𒅅 & Assyrian cuneiform U1218D MesZL 222.svg

𒁔 (U+12054) Sumerian[usum]: Snake

Consistent only Alphabets

The Proto-Sinaitic alphabet was created in 1900 BC which was derived from Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Akkadian Cuneiform. This was followed by the Phoenician alphabet in 1050 BC. Both of these alphabets did not have any vowels, and vowels were implied.

🔹Proto-Sinaitic 1900 BC
🔹Phoenician 1000 BC

Proto-Sinaitic alphabet (written right to left)
(The Proto-Sinaitic script is multidirectional)

Proto-semiticD-01.svgProto-semiticD-02.svg: (no Unicode) Proto-Sinaitic [dag] Fish, [dalet]: The letter for ‘De’, Door

Nun: (no Unicode) Proto-Sinaitic [nahas] snake, The letter for N

Phoenician alphabet (right to left)

𐤃 (U+10903) Phoenician [daleth]: The fourth letter in the alphabet, Door or Fish.

𐤍 (U+1090D) Phoenician [nun]: The fourteenth letter in the alphabet, Serpent or Fish.

Notable Change

The letter names changed with the Phoenician alphabet.

Digg “fish”Dalet “door”
nahs “snake”nun “fish”

Interesting bit about Hebrew

Hebrew did not adopt these changes. Even in Modern Hebrew the Proto-Sinaitic terms are present.

ד (U+05D3) Modern Hebrew [dalet]: The fourth letter of the alphabet, Door

דג (U+05D3 U+05D2) Modern Hebrew [dag]: Fish

ן (U+05E0) Modern Hebrew [nun]: The fourteenth letter of the alphabet

נָחָשׁ Modern Hebrew [nakhásh]: Snake

Alphabets introduce Vowels

The implicit vowel was a flaw that needed to be corrected, so let’s look at two more languages before moving on.

🔹Greek Language starts in 900 BC
🔹Cyrillic Language starts in 900 BC

Δ (U+0394) Greek [delta]: capital letter delta.

𝛿 (U+03B4) Greek [delta]: small letter delta.

📝 The terms uppercase and lowercase were only coined after the printing press.

Д (U+414) Cyrillic [dobra/de]: capital letter De.

💡Greek uses the letter N [Nu] and Cyrillic uses the letter H [En/našĭ] as their replacements for nun.

EgyptianCuneiformProto-SinaiticHebrewPhoenician GreekCyrillicLatin
𓆟 𒄩 Proto-semiticD-01.svg𐤃
𓉿Assyrian cuneiform U1218D MesZL 222.svgProto-semiticD-02.svgד𐤃Δ𝛿 ДD
𓆓𒁔 Nunן𐤍NHN

Where did “Fish” come from?

Although we can trace the letters back to their original pictogram, it is unclear exactly where the Etymology of “Fish” is exactly rooted from.

📍Proto-Indo-European – peysḱ
📍Proto-Germanic – fiskaz

Turning back into a Pictogram

The fish turned back into a Pictogram. Coincidentally, later ichthus went on to turn back into a Pictogram of a fish as a symbol for Jesus which you see as a sticker on the back of cars. 

ἰχθύς Greek [ichthus]: Fish

Next Up: How to turn your Coffee into a Fish (maybe)

I will explore the word Fish in Asian languages next.

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