An Orthographic Shibboleth in Drummore

The sign for the house FINTRY in Drummore (Wigtownshire) approaches the limit for how small a segment of name can be and still index a relationship with a place. Here it’s not the spelling of the name or even the font it’s written in, but a single allograph – the individual realisation of a particular letter – which links the name of the house to the village it’s part of.

Fintry’s house sign, 21 July 2020

The N of Fintry is written back-to-front. Anywhere else this might be interpreted as an idiosyncrasy (perhaps signalling some Cyrillic association) or simply as a mistake. However, in Drummore the backwards N is instantly familiar from KIИG’S HALL on Mill Street. How King’s Hall ended up with its N reversed is a mystery (I suspect here it was a mistake, and a fairly galling one at that) but it’s been a recognisable feature of the village for the approximately 100 years the building has been there. Carving – not just painting – Fintry as FIИTRY seems like it must have been a reference to the conspicuous И on Drummore’s main street.

King’s Hall, 11 April 2022

Scripts, fonts and individual letters index relationships with places. You can make a reasonable assumption about where in the world a signpost written in Cyrillic is from; and the appearance of just the letter thorn <þ> in a (modern) place-name identifies it as Icelandic. Drummore’s И is special because this orthographic variant is associated not with a region or a country but a village of 310 people.

The sign has been repainted since I took the photo above and the И has been altered to N, though you can still make out the И carved into the wood beneath the paint. It’s a shame it’s gone. It would be nice if Drummore leaned into its orthographic distinctiveness and started swapping N for И on its signs.

Fintry’s house sign, 10 April 2022

Of course, Fintry’s И could be completely coincidental but Roland Barthes has dealt with that.

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