Thoughts on ATypI Working Seminar Colombo

ATypI Working Seminar Colombo 2019 written on a banner with some branding design

The 9th ATypI Working Seminar was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on the 22-23rd of March. This seminar comes 27 years after the previous one, held in Budapest in 1992. Sri Lanka becomes the first country to host it where Latin letterforms are not used in its primary languages of communication. English is, of course, an official language spoken and used along with Sinhala and Tamil, but only these last two are national languages. This is significant because it shows that ATypI recognises the importance of engaging with voices from countries who may not have the resources to attend the main conference in countries where the cost of conference tickets, flights and stay as well as currency exchange rates along with visa regulations make attendance difficult.

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The process of lettering a pun

When I first heard about Alphabettes, the name immediately had my attention. As an appreciator of all things punny, I was intrigued. I soon found out it was a place where both women and their opinions were encouraged, and they gathered to talk type. They had lived up to their pun.

While I was savouring this wonderful name and going through the website, I couldn’t help notice the potential for another wordplay. The Hindi word for Daughter is बेटी (beti). It sounds a lot like “bette”. I relished the idea of Alpha bette doubling as “Alpha daughter” in Greek/Hindi. To make it sound more like the plural “Bettes” I pluralised the Hindi word बेटी (beti) using English rules to make it बेटीस (betis). If you’ve spent extended periods of time with me, you might be aware that punning is a serious sport for me and I sometimes tend to go overboard which is why I sat on this pun for about two years. It took me a while and a bit of encouragement to go public with this idea. When I finally wrote to the Alphabettes they green-lit this multilingual pun idea for their header swiftly much to my delight and relief.

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