Sunday, June 17, 2012

Language Quiz!

I took this photograph this weekend in Xenia, Ohio.  Identify the alphabet, the language, and where the photo was taken.


Eric said...

Recognized the alphabet instantly as Phoenician.

Tried transliterating some of it to see if I could recognize the language. Many lines end in "al", so I'm guessing Arabic?

I Googled for "mosque xenia ohio" and came up empty.
Location looks like it could be a tombstone though, so I'll guess Cherry Grove Cemetery.

sjf said...

It's the ten commandments written in phoenician script, the language is paleo-hebrew. I'm guessing it's a close up of a larger monument at the Greene County Court house. An interesting aside: The Old Hungarian alphabet looks a lot like the Phoenician. I struggled until I blew up the image and saw that there were word breaks. Otherwise it looks like a lot of the words end in -tal, a Hungarian noun suffix.

Chris Bogart said...

Very close! Are you Scott? I didn't know you were interested in Old Hungarian runes!

The alphabet is Phonecian, and it's on a monument at the Greene county, OH courthouse. However the language is not paleo-Hebrew; it's in fact just nonsense. According to Arnold Shaheen (, random gibberish was written in Phonecian characters on the movie prop ten commandments in the 1956 Charlton Heston movie, and these reproduce that prop. These monuments around the country were in part promotional tie-ins for the movie.

sjf said...

Hi, my name is Simon, just another philology nerd :-)
I think there's more scholarship in this inscription than you give credit. The first two lines are unquestionably the beginning of the fourth commandment, "Honour thy father and mother...":
(read R - L)

Look at Deuteronomy 5:16:

I stopped working as soon as I got that far :-)

Chris Bogart said...

Interesting! I'll take your word for it; I was just relying on the court decision quoted by the article I linked to. To me the text looked too short to be the 10 commandments, but I suppose if you take out the verbiage in between and most of the vowels, "thou shalt not kill" could end up being pretty terse.

This plaque made my day, by the way; it is the most interesting thing in Xenia. Although the courthouse itself comes a close second.