By Peter

Part of the story of Coiled involves people speaking English with an Ethiopian accent. I thought pretty hard about how to get this across in a graphic novel. I could write things out spelled incorrectly (instead of “big assignment”, I could write “beeg assaiynment”, or something like that), but frankly, that makes the people with accents look stupid. That’s how Stephen Pastis gets across the stupidity of his crocodile characters in Pearls Before Swine.

So, instead, I decided to ask Amanda to write in a font that is reminiscent of the Amharic alphabet, which is the main written language of Ethiopia. You know how Chinese restaurants sometimes have their names spelled out in a font that seems vaguely Chinese? I wanted to do something like that for Amharic. (This technique has been used offensively in the past, unfortunately. The yellow stars that Jews had to wear under Nazi rule had “Jude” written in a font that looked vaguely Hebrew. I’m hoping no one will take offense.)

The Amharic alphabet is pretty interesting. There is a style of letter for each consonant, and then each consonant has variations for each of the seven vowels that can follow it. That’s 33 consonants times 7 vowels, or 231 letters that Ethiopian students have to learn. It’s almost as bad as having to learn how to spell in English!