Ascaria,  Imagi-Nation

Ascaria II

Part 2: Zafraria

The name for the sworn enemy of the Ascodali came during my original session of random generation: Zafraria. Soon after my dive down the rabbit hole of the Ascodali long s, I decided there should be something outré about the Zafrarian language as well.

I have long harbored a curiosity about the Cyrllic alphabet — different letters, “backwards” letters, number-lookin’ things — it has always exercised an exotic appeal. I pulled up my club chair and a musty, leather-bound Wikipedia, and set in to learning what I could about the script of St. Cyril.

As a little sidebar, I decided early on in this new shelter-in-place paradigm that I would cultivate an “atmosphere of growth.” I bought a book, paper, and fancy pen, and have been trying to teach myself to draw; I’ve been re-reading the work of the Brontës and learning about their lives; I’m trying to write a song with music and lyrics. All of this language study was an unexpected bonus. Among the myriad things I’ve learned is that Cyrillic was named for St. Cyril, but not created by him. He created an earlier, cool-as-hell looking script called Glagolitic, which is the writing system used in the world of The Witcher books and video game series, according to Wikipedia. There is a Netflix series as well; I don’t know if it features any writing.

Well, I studied tables of the corresponding sounds, and found a “learn Russian” site that gave example words and how to write them. I was tickled to learn that this fascinating fellow  — ? — or “Zhe” would make the initial /z/ sound I imagined. They have a plain /z/ sound, too, but I always associate the voiced postalveolar fricative /zhe/ sound as Russian. (I admit, I learned that linguistics stuff from Wikipedia).

I was dead chuffed when, seeing how “India” is rendered in Russian, I discovered that I would get to use “backwards” N (pretty cool) and (O, my MG) — perhaps the most quintessentially Cyrillic of all Cyrillic letters — “BACKWARDS” R! 

Next, in order to reproduce the letters electronically, I had to learn about Unicode. It seems that one can get his computer to type all sorts of fascinating glyphs and sigils if only he can divine their Unicode. Fortunately all the Wikipedia pages about languages provide tables with each letter’s code.

I achieved my pièce de résistance upon pasting my creation — Жафрария — into Google Translate, dialing in “Russian” (Google detected my word as Kyrgyz in origin, of all things) and clicking the left speaker to pronounce the word in Russian (not how it sounds translated into English). The little computer voice said: “Zafraria,” exactly how I had been saying it in my head.

At some point during the whole process I decided that Ж was, in fact, perhaps a little bit “extra.” I wanted a recognizable, but stylized Z. I somehow stumbled into (you know how the internet works) Black Letter or Gothic script. There were a couple of Z-ish options; I decided upon ℨ as a compromise between Ж and plain-old Z. (Of course, it looks just like the plain-old Russian z [sigh].

And so, I give you… ℨафрария.

I’ve completed the first two troops, but as we shall see next time, they are a bit of a cheat …


  • Scott Larson

    I’ll be the first to comment that I begin to see that WordPress has garbled all of my hard work in Unicode in my Ascaria posts. I’ll have to find a another way to insert the words as they should appear. [Sigh]

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