The Alphabet and Language of Futurama

Futurama, one of my all-time-favorite shows, makes a lot of puns about the past and future. This includes the visual material around us too. In one episode, there were people who were very rich and one of their favorite pastimes were destroying antique masterpieces, like the Mona Lisa.

There are three alternative alphabets that appear often in the background of episodes, usually in the forms of graffiti, advertisements, or warning labels. Nearly all messages using alternative scripts transliterate directly into English. The first alphabet consists of abstract characters and is referred to as Alienese, a simple substitution cipher from the Latin alphabet. The second alphabet uses a more complex modular addition code, where the “next letter is given by the summation of all previous letters plus the current letter.” The codes often provide additional jokes for fans dedicated enough to decode the messages. The third language sometimes used is Hebrew. Aside from these alphabets, most of the displayed wording on the show uses the Latin alphabet.

Several English expressions have evolved since the present day. For example, the word Christmas has been replaced with Xmas (pronounced “EX-mas) and the word ask with aks (pronounced axe). According to David X. Cohen it is a running joke that the French language is extinct in the Futurama universe (though the culture remains alive), much like Latin is in the present. In the French dubbing of the show, German is used as the extinct language instead.

740px-Alien_decoder_Futurama.svg

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