January 27, 2011 | Japanese

Vertical Words

In which I write my first non-horizontal word outside of a crossword puzzle.

Today I wrote my first vertical word.

In Japanese you can write horizontally left to right, as in English—but you can also write vertically, moving top to bottom, right to left! Crazy, right? 

My First Vertical Word

My First Vertical Word

My Second Vertical Word

My Second Vertical Word

Writing vertically was for me a life-altering event. I’m not sure why. After all, I wrote right to left during my Arabic unit, and in small blocks of letters when I did Korean, and those were pretty radical experiences.

For some reason, though, writing vertically feels even more radical—like exporting the fun and play of a crossword puzzle or a round of Boggle and infusing it right into your own real life.

Very fundamentally I experience language as horizontal. I picture words leaving my mouth horizontally. I have never experienced anything but horizontal writing. And now all that has been turned, well, not upside down, but at least on its side!

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