Wingdinglish

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

An "alien language" is represented as English with a weird font for the letters instead of the Latin alphabet. Many examples in comic books, some in video games, a few in sci-fi movies and TV. Futurama and Star Wars are examples of the latter use. Since this requires a visual (and lends itself particularly well to comic books), it can be considered a form of Painting the Medium.

A specific subtrope of Fictionary and Cypher Language. here is a great site about this. Contrast with Con Lang.

Examples of Wingdinglish include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Urusei Yatsura, Lum's mother didn't speak Japanese. Her alien language was represented by Mahjong tiles.
  • Hunter X Hunter's written "language" is just a substitution cipher for Japanese kana.
  • For alien letters, MagicalGirlLyricalNanoha used English characters written forward then overlaid with the same English word written backwards and upside-down. Enough to look like an exotically unfamiliar font at a glance until you take a closer look.
  • The font in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann substitutes for the Latin alphabet.
  • The runes in Madoka Magica. In the Spin-Off Kazumi Magica a witch speaks them aloud.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Two from The DCU: Interlac and Kryptonese.
  • The aliens in The Ultimates spoke English set in a Japanese (katakana) font. Given that they were people-eating Nazi invaders, that would fit under Unfortunate Implications.
  • Marvel also does that with the Skrull language when it's left untranslated. Look for "He loves you" in Secret Invasion.
  • Mr Mind's Venusian in Power Of Shazam. It has since been used by other aliens, where it often turns out to be gibberish or actually say "Alien Speech".
  • Tiny Titans uses a substitution cipher for Blue Beetle's scarab, with a key at the end for readers to interpret. This was sometimes used in the main DCU as well, although it wasn't consistant.
  • In PS238, alien tongues are represented in strange fonts, one font per alien language, but are readable English when deciphered. Prospero's walls of text in his introductory chapter starts off with "If you can read this" and goes on with Monty Python quotes, a recipe, etc, to avoid heavy spoilers, but in the rest of the series, his utterings are often hilarious.

Disney[edit | hide]

  • "Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye" has a supposedly "ancient" language written throughout the queue. It's a simple substitution alphabet. Originally, decoder cards were given out by cast members to help guests fight boredom in what was potentially a 5 hour wait.
  • In Tomorrowland, the photo kiosk and nearby restrooms at the exit of Space Mountain have signs in English and an "alien language," but if you compare the two, the latter is obviously just a substitution cipher for the former. Similarly, all signs near "Stitch's Great Escape" are written like this.

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Gnommish in the Artemis Fowl books is Wingdings English.
    • Also, Centaurean.
  • A few of the Fighting Fantasy books have puzzles that involve working out which symbols represent which letters to read secret codes.
  • While not examples of extraterrestrial alphabets, there are several Redwall books in which the heroes must decode some ancient writings that are the same as English, only the letters look just different enough to make them unrecognizable.
  • Somewhat subverted in The Lord of the Rings, it contains several inscriptions (most notably the title page and the writing on Balin's tomb) that, when deciphered, turns out to be phonetically written English. This is in fact part of the book's Translation Convention - Tolkien pretends that the whole book is really translated from an original Westron manuscript by himself, and includes the inscriptions.
    • The Cirth at the top of the title page reads "The Lord of the Rings, translated from the red book" while the tengwar at the bottom continues, "of Westmarch by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Herein is set forth the history of the War of the Ring and the return of the King as seen by the Hobbits."
    • The map in The Hobbit also has an English text, but that uses real Anglo-Saxon runes, not Cirth.
  • Not a language as such, but in one of the The Dark Tower books Stephen King presents a Line of Eld symbol (think, "descendant of King Arthur" for a rough equivalent). It's the copyright symbol set in Windings.
  • The ancient language known by Golems in the Discworld novels Going Postal and Making Money is Wingdinglish based on the "angelic alphabet" created by John Dee.
  • Averted: James Gurney's Dinotopia picture books has a Cypher Language, not Wingdinglish, despite modern English being only several centuries old compared to the dino civilization of millions of years. Acceptable Break From Reality considering it was designed for children and their parents.
  • In 'The Ogre Downstairs' Diana Wynne Jones has some characters from Greek Legend speaking ancient Greek, that the characters don't understand. However the written text is English transliterated into the Greek alphabet, letting the readers know what the characters are saying.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Ancient language in Stargate SG-1 is faux-Latin with different characters instead of the Latin alphabet.
  • "The Impossible Planet" in Doctor Who.
  • Star Trek is filled with these, apparently; Memory Alpha has a sizable section of images devoted to alien script.
    • Trek languages aren't strictly Wingdinglish. Written languages in Trek are purely decorative elements, and they have no alphabetic equivalent. Producers avoid giving written alien languages proper alphabets, because it gives them greater freedom to arrange the pictograms in a suitably 'alien' format.
  • In an episode of Community Abed writes unrecognizable symbols in his notebook, but when Troy asks him what language it is he shrugs and says "Probably Arabic." (It's not.)

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The text in the Unown Ruins in Pokémon Gold and Silver falls under this.
    • Technically, the Unown are just stylized versions of the English alphabet, and later punctuation. Although interestingly, this would make the words in the Unown Pokédex Gratuitous English in the original Japanese.
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire) used braille for this (the player's guide had the translations in it). The only place it was used was in a puzzle to unlock some of the legendary Pokémon.
  • Hylian in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker was a cypher for Hiragana. By The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, it was merely stylised Latin letters in English (though the mirroring used undermined this).
  • The Standard Galactic Alphabet in the Commander Keen games.
  • In Master of Magic, the names and descriptions of still-not-researched spells in the spell book are in English but written in "magical runes" substitution cypher.
  • Characters that speak "borginian" in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney do so by using a wingdings font. Or at least a font that looks like a lot of symbols put together.
  • The Shroob aliens in Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time.
  • The Daedric script from The Elder Scrolls games. If you read it carefully, the words even look quite like English words.
  • In Quake IV, the Strogg control panels are marked with odd looking letters that later on in the game (after the progagonist is Stroggified) look like almost normal English alphabet.
  • Bubble Bobble had this in the secret rooms.
    • The NES version of Bubble Bobble Part 2 had the word "Bonus" in this font in its Bonus Stages.
  • Ultima had a bunch of such scripts, even That Other Wiki has an articleon them.
  • Simlish from The Sims has a substitution cipher, too. It resembles Greek, and also uses astrological symbols and such. Enterprising modders have created a TrueType font for it.
    • In The Sims 2, TV programs and commercials clearly use the Wingdings font.
  • The Mr. Saturns in EarthBound use this, along with several verbal tics.
  • Final Fantasy X uses an extremely stylized script in some places, such as the screen when choosing a destination for the Fahrenheit.
  • Aquaria does this; clues are given on the opening screen, where the 'runic' alphabet is slowly replaced by the Latin one. Players who didn't want to translate the script could overwrite the graphics file for the runic text with the Latin variant, at the expense of immersion.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, signs on shops and inns, as well as a subtitle under the name of any new area you enter, are written in a weird script with curly foreign letters. Said script can actually be downloaded as a typeface.
  • The marker/unitology text from the Dead Space series.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Prometheus and Bob alien subtitles, which look like crop circles.
  • Futurama had two alien alphabets: One was one-for-one to English, and one was more complex.
    • The second was devised when the first one became "too easy".
  • Transformers gives us Cybertronix. This was used to insert {{Easter E