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Giving A Talk Using Hieroglyphics

Rusty - October 29, 2007

Last week was our Primary Program. I’m a big fan, and not just because I get out of planning Sacrament Meeting for that week. I always enjoy watching the kids yell into the microphone, tug their clothes out of fit and enthusiastically (or bored to death) sing their little hearts out. One of the best programs of the year, if not the best.

During the program our friend’s 4-year old son got up to speak. After his first line I realized he was reading it (most kids only have 1-2 lines that are either memorized or whispered to them by an adult). Not only was he reading it but he appeared more comfortable behind the pulpit than most of our ward. His 10-15 sentence talk was fantastic and at the end of it I sat wondering at what age kids are learning to read these days.

As a designer I’m naturally fascinated by the alphabet, both as a visual tool for communication and as a series of symbols representing an idea. The first communication via writing was in the form of pictographs, the most famous being Egyptian hieroglyphs. Using a picture to communicate the content of the picture is a natural instinct. In the western world this form of writing gave way to cuneiform (ask Ronan) which eventually gave way to our modern phonetic Greek and Roman alphabets (a limited number of symbols that are put together to make different sounds rather than a different symbol for every word).

My friend’s son didn’t use an alphabet, rather he drew his own hieroglyphics (or what he would probably call them, “pictures”). I love that his natural inclination is the same as that of an adult’s of 4,000 years ago. My friend started a couple of the drawings but his son quickly took over because his dad’s didn’t make any sense to him (Duh! I mean, he’s only a brilliant illustrator and designer, how could he know what would best communicate?).

Below is the scanned talk (click on the thumbnail) and the Rosetta Stone:


Page 1
I love primary
I am a sunbeam
Every sunday (calendar) eye go downstairs to primary.
I love all my primary friends
We (wheat) go to class (and sometimes down the hall to get a drink) we have
color time, singing time, we read the bible and sometimes play games.

Page 2
Brother C and Sister C are my teachers, they teach me ABC’s they are very (V) nice (smiley). They teach me what if I had a shark pet.
They teach me to nice (smiley) to my family
they teach me to have faith (FA…) in Jesus,
they teach me that he was baptized and that he loves me.
Jesus can make me feel safe when I go to bed.
In the name of Jesus Christ A-men.

It looks like Brigham Young’s Deseret Alphabet now has a little competition.


  1. This is aweseome. This may be fhe tonight…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 29, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  2. Wow. That’s amazing.

    Our primary sacrament meeting is in a couple weeks, we’ve been practising already. It’s so funny how the older girls are so enthusiastic and the older boys are so *not*.

    Comment by Susan M — October 29, 2007 @ 12:08 pm

  3. That is so cute!!!

    The detail is amazing — what a bright kid!!!

    Comment by C. L. Hanson — October 29, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  4. this is fantastic!

    Is this common for little ones? anyone?

    Comment by mfranti — October 29, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  5. I’ll try to put my prize-winning chili recipe into hieroglyphics, and then I’ll post it here–if you want a guest post on how to win the ward’s chili contest.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 29, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  6. Wow. That beats cuneiform any day.

    Comment by Ronan — October 29, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  7. Damn sons of Graphic Designers. Always showing off.

    Comment by cj douglass — October 29, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

  8. That is incredible!

    My daughter has always “written” in pictures, too, but nothing quite as detailed as this.

    I think the Primary Program is, by far, the best Sacrament Meeting ever. Nobody gets bored (except the kids, waiting for their turn), nobody falls asleep (except for my daughter, five minutes before her turn), parents and grand-parents bawl like babies when their children sing and/or speak. Something always goes wrong, but nobody cares –if anything, everyone smiles. I love it!

    Comment by Cheryl — October 29, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

  9. This makes me think of some of the choral music I saw that’s being written nowadays that kinda looks like this Classic Concentration style. (Eric Whitacre among others) They find that you can express what you want the musician to express/perform with it better than the standard clefs and dynamic markings. I wish I had a jpeg of it to show everyone.

    Makes me wonder what Adamic looks like.

    Comment by Bret — October 29, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

  10. Does this mean that our old, established means of educating everyone may not always work out the best for everyone? Who da thunk?

    Comment by Lamonte — October 30, 2007 @ 4:32 am

  11. Bret-
    As a musician and piano teacher, I would love to see what you’re talking about…

    Comment by Cheryl — October 30, 2007 @ 5:53 am

  12. We did this with our children when they were younger. It works great. I think we got the idea from the “Friend” where they have those stories that also have the little pictures sprinkled throughout so the little kids can read along.

    Comment by JM — October 30, 2007 @ 8:02 am

  13. Come on Rusty, you know it was definitely THE BEST program of the year. I’m so glad you included Tate’s talk. I was on the stand next to him as he was “reading” it, and it was hilarious to see all the people’s faces trying to figure out how a kid who’s barely 4 was reading.

    Comment by Brooke — October 30, 2007 @ 10:47 am

  14. since my dh would never ever comment on a mormon blog (he’s too shy and lutheran). I thought I would do it for him. he thought it was pretty cool too and this is his thoughts.

    “schools push the a-b-c linear, mechanistic thinking. and generally discourage (at least, by cutting art/music programs) creative problem solving, holistic thinking.

    hence — math, science, english, etc; but little or no art, photography, orchestra, dance, etc

    Comment by mfranti — October 30, 2007 @ 11:12 am

  15. I hope word doesn’t get out in your ward as to this little secret. I loved Brooke’s comment about the people’s faces. Let them continue to think that he really did read his talk. It will be great for his self-esteem. They’ll think mom and dad are pretty fantastic too….which is true of all of them.

    I love it!

    It took Rusty until he was 15 or 16 on a family vacation before he drew meaningful pictographs (remember the “sears” tower, Rusty?)

    Comment by don — October 30, 2007 @ 11:17 am

  16. Cheryl,

    I browsed a bit for a picture but couldn’t come up with anything. If you really want to look into it, contact the music department at BYU-Idaho, particularly Dr. Kevin Brower or Dr. Randall Kempton.

    Comment by Bret — October 30, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  17. Bret-
    Well, thank you for trying. I actually knew Dr. Brower once, years and years ago. And it wasn’t from college! I spent some summers (okay, only two) at Ricks’ Piano Camp back in the day. Ah, those were the days.

    I think your DH is right on. I can’t stand how NCLB has changed our schools. My mom, who’s taught 2nd grade for 30 years, has to teach her children a new reading method this year and it’s taking up all their time –hers and the kids. The basics are important, yes, but if you take away music and art, you might as well take away the sun.

    Comment by cheryl — October 30, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  18. That is fun.

    Comment by Pam — October 31, 2007 @ 8:22 pm

  19. I LOVE mfranti’s comment…..”…if you take away music and art, you might as well take away the sun.” Soooo true! I taught elem for 35 years (all grades except K) and saw the difference in having the arts and not. It’s a matter of life and death. The kids come alive doing drama, music, etc. How I love Tate’s talk! I’m enjoying retirement, but it brought back such happy memories of teaching days, and happy today-days with our granddaughter. And I LOVE the Primary programs! We get ours a week from Sunday. :)

    Comment by Jill Halliday — November 1, 2007 @ 2:33 am

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