“It’s – aieee!”
At least that’s what I thought I heard Jess say. She was sitting in her apartment, and I in mine, and with us were a few other members of the Order of Logogustation, peering into our respective computer cameras and thus out of our respective windows in the fly’s eye of a Zoom screen. (Word tasting, like everything else, is not quite the same in the Year of the Plague.)
“What’s wrong?” I said. Some of the others said “What?” and “Huh?” and “You OK?” Daryl said, “Did you just get stung by a bee?”
“No,” Jess said, and held up her iPad to her camera. “It’s eyey! It has lots of eyes!” Once the camera had focused, we could see a word in the Cyrillic alphabet: многоꙮчитїи.
Margot, in one square of the screen next to Daryl, flinched and turned away. “Sorry,” she said sideways, “I have trypophobia.”
“Oh, these aren’t holes,” Jess said. “They’re literally eyes! Seven eyes looking out at you from the centre of the word!”
“Eugh!” Margot said, shuddering, and absented herself, leaving Daryl to hold down the frame.
“Is…” Maury said, and leaned in as he pulled his glasses away from his eyes. “Is that Old Church Slavonic?”
“Of course it is!” Jess said. “Mnogoochitii, ‘many-eyed’. As in many-eyed seraphim.”
“Nice,” I said. “Genuine typographical eye-conicity.” No one seemed to recognize the clever pun I had just made.
Elisa, up in the corner, snorted and giggled. “Sorry,” she said. “It looks like a potato with all those eyes!”
“The eyes have it,” Jess said. “Old Church Slavonic scribes liked to make eyes out of O’s.”
“That gives a new sense to ‘dotting eyes,’” I said. Nobody also laughed.
“Here,” Jess said, scrolling and flipping through some things on her eyePad. She held up a page of what I now know was a PDF from 2007 about the inclusion of additional Cyrillic characters in Unicode. The key paragraph was hard to see until I clicked the button to put her full screen:
MONOCULAR Ꙩꙩ, BINOCULAR Ꙫꙫ, DOUBLE MONOCULAR Ꙭꙭ, and MULTIOCULAR ꙮ are used in words which are based on the root for ‘eye’. The first is used when the wordform is singular, as ꙩко; the second and third are used in the root for ‘eye’ when the wordform is dual, as Ꙫчи, ꙭчи; and the last in the epithet ‘many-eyed’ as in серафими многоꙮчитїй ‘many-eyed seraphim’. It has no upper-caseform.
“These are all in Unicode,” Jess said. “You can insert them as characters in a document. James, you could use it on your blog.”
“I was just about to ask you for the link,” I said. I clicked Zoom back to the multi-person view.
“But these are scribal ornaments,” Daryl said. “They’re just decorative forms of the Cyrillic letter O. Right?”
“Yup,” Jess said. “But I guess it’s worth keeping them for archival purposes.”
“Well, it will get many more eyes on them,” Maury said.
“Eye eye, sir,” Jess said.
“I think I’d like to have Unicode characters for some of the ornamental capitals in medieval documents, in that case,” Daryl said. In the background, off camera, Margot’s voice came in: “Just what we need. More rabbit penises.” She reappeared and sat back next to Daryl, turning their Ꙩ into Ꙫ.
“Too bad we can’t do that with the English word for ‘eye’,” Elisa said.
“There’s always ꙩcular,” Maury said. It seems to me he dotted the o as he said it.
I said, “I think the word eye looks like the e’s are two eyes giving someone the side-eye.”
“What was the word you said before, Jess?” Elisa asked.
“Which one?” Jess said. “Mногоꙮчитїи?”
“No, the one that sounded like you found an eyeball on your chair.”
“Oh – eyey! A great word, not used often enough, and usually applied to potatoes and cheese.”
“And Zoom screens,” Daryl said.
We all paused a moment and looked at our screens. There were our eyes, Ꙭ, looking out from our respective frames, and the whole thing looking like a squared-off version of ꙮ.
Margot breathed “Aieeee” and absented herself abruptly once more.