A month after getting back from Dubai, my husband was off to Mexico City. There, he got me this cool necklace that spells Nancy in Mayan — or so he was told.
That was the clearest shot I was able to get. Here’s the “alphabet” they used:
I love the necklace — I’m wearing it now, in fact — but I’ve also determined that, sadly, this is not how Nancy would be written in Mayan.
First, Mayan glyphs don’t represent individual letters. They represent Mayan syllables (consonant + vowel). So there shouldn’t be a one-to-one correlation between the number of letters in my name and the number of glyphs used to write the Mayan version of my name.
Second, Mayan glyphs aren’t lined up to create words. They’re arranged into glyph blocks. So there shouldn’t be a row of glyphs on the pendant, but a single block formed by reorienting and connecting several glyphs.
So how do you write Nancy in Mayan?
Let’s find out. Here are the three steps involved in transcribing a name into Mayan:
- Respell the name using Mayan syllables.
- Nancy becomes Na-na-si.
- Choose Mayan glyphs to represent those syllables.
- Several different syllabaries exist, and each one offers several different glyphs per syllable. So there are actually many options here.
- Arrange the glyphs to form a glyph block.
- Various glyph block arrangements are possible.
So you can choose not only from many glyphs, but from many different glyph arrangements. This means that a single name can be correctly transcribed into Mayan dozens of different ways.
Here’s how I decided to transcribe Nancy (Na-na-si) into Mayan:
The sad face is a “na” sound, the glyph beside it is another “na” sound, and the glyph beneath them is the “si” sound. It spells Nancy, but I also like to call it: “woman wearing gigantic flower in hair has sad dream upon rabbit pillow.”
Try transcribing your name and let me know what you come up with! Here are some syllabaries to use:
- “Writing in Maya Glyphs” (PDF) by Mark Pitts
- See pages 29 & 30 for glyph block arrangements.
- “My Name in Maya Heiroglyphics” (PDF)
- Mayan script at Omniglot
- Mayan script at Ancient Scripts
- “Maya Hieroglyph Syllabary” (PDF) by David Stuart