Everyone’s a Diacritic or How a Circle Inspired a Linguistic System


It all started with a Ha. Which lead to a Hā, a te reo/Māori word meaning “breath”. Which became a Hå the magical energy of Aedea, a key concept in The Mythic Series.

During the creation of Hå, as part of the name Hå-Bringer, I experimented with different symbols on top of that A. I wanted the word to look special because Hå was something significant and sticking that ring on the top achieved that distinctiveness perfectly.

Those symbols are known as diacritics but you might better know them as those weird marks you scroll through when using ‘Insert Symbol’ in Microsoft Word. That’s certainly how I best knew them before I began The Mythic.

We don’t use diacritics in English, but they do feature many other languages. I’m primarily a visual person and that includes how words look on the screen/page. For me scrolling through those symbols is like being a kid in a candy store – or just adult me in a candy store.

Distinguished Competition

It could have been Hӓ or Hă or Hâ or Hḁ or a dozen other variations. But I’ve always loved the look of the Å. There’s something majestic about that circle above the letter. It looks like the A has a halo and for me that conjures up images of saints, which evokes feelings of holiness, of sacredness.

This got me thinking. If the sight of that diacritic over the A could bring up emotions in me, then perhaps the symbol itself had special properties. The more I thought about the concept, the more I liked it and so I decided to formally insert these symbols into Aedean linguistics.

Also, there was a small amount of greed involved. There were so many wonderful symbols to choose from that I hated limiting myself to one. An advantage of The Mythic Series is its ability to stretch to accommodate just about any idea that hits me. This may also be a disadvantage…

Naming Conventions

I dubbed the system “distinguishments”, relying on the use of that word to mean something both notable and also decorative. Also our word for these glyphs – ‘diacritics’ – comes from an ancient Greek word meaning…distinguishing.

Unlike diacritics in our world, the marks do not affect the pronunciation of the word. Developing on that fact that seeing that Å had evoked an emotional response, I decided they would affect how the word is perceived when heard or read.

In many ways The Mythic is as much about rules as it is inspiration. When you create a new world – even one where magic is real – it needs laws and social mores to be believable. So the distinguishment system required guidelines.

That, of course, had flow on effects. The need for a person or body to administer the system lead to the creation of the Parliament of Lies and its own convoluted system of bureaucracy. With great power comes great regulation.

The Rules of the Names

In most cases distinguishments are bestowed by the Parliament of Lies, making them like an honour system in our world. But in addition, there are those that are inherited, reflecting our world where certain titles – Sir and Dame for example – are given, while some – Queen, Prince, Duke, and Baron – are hereditary.

Distinguishments that are bestowed are typically only used on one name – usually the surname.

The closer the glyph is to the start of the word, the more powerful the emotion that it evokes.

When placed above a letter, the glyphs impart positive feelings. If placed underneath they have the opposite effect, imparting shame to the unlucky recipient. Aedea is the “world of inspiration”, not “the world of aspiration”. In other words, they can use language to degrade individuals just as effectively as we do.

I decided that a dignified distinguishment would never be placed on the first letter of a word as that would be inappropriate. Because reasons. Every system needs some arbitrary rule that exists “just because”.

Distinguishing the Distinguishments

There are four principal distinguishments – Halo, Plume, Tail, and Crown.

Sample letter with Halo: å
Examples of words using a halo: Hå, Primåry 

The Halo (our ‘ring’) is the most lauded of the diacritics. It means the subject is especially sacred or revered. It is bestowed on a word only in exceptional circumstances and only by unanimous vote of the Illustrious Lie. For example, the Primåry is an ancient Aedean hero who sacrificed his life to end the war between The Light and The Dark. In other words, Halos are rare.

Sample letters with Crowns: ê, ï, ñ
Examples of words using crowns: Kingdom of Sprîng, Sümmerlands, Wiñter Empire

Crowns (our ‘circumflex’, ‘diaeresis’ and ‘tilde’) are the family distinguishments of three of the Aedean seasons. Because these distinguishments are inherited by right, rather than formally bestowed, the seasonal family members are free to use them how they see fit. Some, therefore, place Crowns on both their personal and family names. 

We’ve seen one example of this in Book One – the royal daughter Ataêgina Sprîng. Some, however, don’t. In Book Three we hear of Romeo Wiñter. 

The season Autumn segregated itself from Aedea generations ago and nothing is known of the use of Crowns by that family. Well, I know all about the use but I’m not telling – not yet anyway.

Sample letters with Plume: à, ò
Examples of words using a Plume: Glàsslan, Herbòrt, Hàmpshire

A Plume (our ‘grave’ accent) indicates that a person has achieved a special rank or status within the government, military, or business. It can only be bestowed by one of the upper Lies. The Lie that bestowed a Plume, or a Lie above it, can also remove it if they so desire. I have previously said in an explanatory note that Plumes cannot be inherited, and that they only go on surnames, but that’s incorrect. Or those things were correct at the time but the Illustrious Lie changed the rules. Anyway, that’s my explanation and I’m sticking to it!

Sample letter with Tail: ç
Example of word using a tail: çur, fleçk

A Tail (our ‘cedilla’) is added to a word to indicate disgrace (i.e. it indicates that person is literally dragging their shame like a tail). We haven’t seen it used on a name, only on the pejoratives “çur” and “fleçk”, but if our resident minotaur Henry had a name when we met him it would have appeared somewhere on there. As I said, Aedea is a world of inspiration, but not necessarily aspiration.


If it’s not already obvious, I love making up rules and systems. It’s the ex-lawyer in me, I think. I love processes and legislation, how they are created, adhered to, and how they can be circumvented and broken.

So, there are some races in Aedea, who do not recognise the authority of the Parliament of Lies and, therefore, don’t adhere to the distinguishment guidelines. 

Some of these races have taken to adding other adornments to their names or words. For example, the O’phion add a ‘snake’ (our ‘apostrophe’) to the name for their race. This is seen as gauche and ostentatious by other Aedeans and, in deference to the Parliament of Lies, I have left it out of the list of actual distinguishments.

As much as I have portrayed the O’phion as villains, I have to respect their bravado here. Fight the power, snake-people!