hacker help

Published on December 4th, 2006 | by Jules Yap


can you decipher this ikea word art?

“i need a hacker of a different sort…

for a wedding gift in 2000, we received a piece of ikea word art that all of our linguistic friends are unable to decode or even guess the language of…

it appears to be an actual language since it has a word root, prefix, and suffix, but i have to face the possibility it’s simply art made to look like language…

however, i would really like to know what is hanging on my wall!

if it is written in some little-known language from the third world, and the artist knew that it would hanging in living rooms all over north america, i have a guess as to what it would say:


the longer it hangs there unhacked, the more worried i become that i’m right!” - greg, surrey, bc.

dear greg
i would be concerned too about what i hang on my wall. but i’m as clueless as you.
so, please crack the code, some one?

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The Author

Jules Yap

"I am Jules, the engine behind IKEAHackers and the one who keeps this site up and running. My mission is to capture all the wonderful, inspiring, clever hacks and ideas for our much loved IKEA items".

31 Responses to can you decipher this ikea word art?

  1. electric heat pump says:

    no clue but this is nicely done ;)

  2. Anonymous says:

    awesome work!

  3. Samantha says:

    Its arabic

  4. anothereditor says:

    Who’s “we”? “We” found this in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, and we think the usage of “third world” is just fine.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ignorant white people is right. “Little known language from the third world”.

    We call it the developing world now.

  6. Adam says:

    A saying about hats written in “headless” script? That’s rather good!

  7. Anonymous says:

    From the first look I would have possibly guessed a variation a Gaelic…

    but from further research I am going with Tibeten…

  8. Actually, to be more specific, there are several styles of the u-med (“headless”) script. The script that is generally referred to as u-med has more stylistic vowel diacriticals. The vowls in this print are actually closer to the u-chen script, though the consonant forms are closer to u-med. What you have here is actually a very beautiful and somewhat artistically styled version of the drugtsa script.

  9. Jules says:

    wow! this is great. i can finally have closure. ;P thanks adam wells for posting this dilemma on language log.

  10. myl says:

    It’s Tibetan headless cursive.

    More details here:
    including a translation.

  11. Alexandra says:

    It looks like they’ve solved your puzzle over at Language Log .

    According to them, ‘The script is the “headless” cursive style of Tibetan. The large word says zhwa mo “hat”, and the accompanying text translates as something like “whoever has a head has a hat”.’

  12. Adam Wells says:

    I sent a link to this page to Language Log, and it has been identified as Tibetan:


    –Adam Wells

  13. Language Log has cracked this case wide open.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Tibetan (cursive style script) : zhwa-mo = “hat”

    Whoever has a head has a hat !

  15. ANP says:

    Maybe we should just ask ikea.

  16. Anonymous says:

    It looks like a calligraphic Sanskrit to me. Closest to the Oriya script, either that or Telugu.

  17. Rinat says:


    It says Owl in Hebrew “yanshof” and it looks like Owl. however I couldn't read the line at the bottom.

    It's very nice!

  18. Jules says:

    pieter replied and nope, it's not nirichaen. back to square one. :(

  19. Jules says:

    it does look like nirichaen. i've written to Pieters. Let's see if we can finally nail this.

  20. Anonymous says:

    It's called Nirichaen, and it was invented by Pieter Rottiers:

  21. Jules says:

    jonathan wrote me and said it's not urdu or hindi either. i don't think it's arabic.

    i even did some da-vinci-coding and tried to read it upside down and reflected on a mirror! lol! still clueless.

  22. laerm says:

    actually, it looks a lot like mxedruli, a script used to write georgian, but something's off about it…like some letters are upside down or something. like the first character, that's a long E, but upside down. mxedruli has no short slash-type characters, like a lowercase l, though. on the other hand, some characters look like telugu (a dravidian language).

    my honest opinion? created by a bored, smart linguistics student – the kind of thing i'd do. :)

  23. no clue but this is nicely done ;)

  24. Sanna says:

    I'm sorry, its not Elvish (checked with the book, not old scandinavian or german either (I am german and live in Scandinavia, so I can tell)

    Lycka till!

  25. Kristin says:

    It looks like Arabic calligraphy to me. Granted, I haven't looked at any old Scandinavian or Germanic scripts, but it looks similar enough to the basic alphabet I was looking at.

  26. Kaytee says:

    Check your Tolkein tomes…. Looks a lot like Elvish. There was an alphabet in one of his books– not in Hobbit…. I think it may have been one that was a compilation of notes, essays, story sketches, etc.

  27. Christy says:

    I'd go in another direction, and check out old scandinavian and germanic scripts.

    From a quick google, it looks like that might be the right way to go.

  28. Jules says:

    moosh, i thought it looked thai too so i checked with a Thai friend and nope, it ain't. it ain't loatian either. :(

  29. moosh says:

    It looks like Thai or Hindi, if that's any help.

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