EFD has a new contributor! Letters from Iran by Zahra Abtahi: “The So Many Alphabets Iranian Use in the Cyber Space

Zahra will be more than happy to write on Iranian internet issues particularly and popular culture in general….E.S. please send you inquiries in the comments section…  

The So Many Alphabets Iranian Use in the Cyber Space

By: Zahra Abtahi


Nowadays, internet is a very popular medium in Iran among youths, despite the very low speed of net and unbearable censorship. Many young people in a so widespread range use net daily, especially spend noticeable time in social networks such as Facebook (the most popular social network in Iran, although it has been filtered since last election in Iran, 2009) and Google+.

This huge population (considering that Iran is a very young country and has about 70 million populations) uses different alphabets for expressing themselves. The official and main alphabet is Persian, taken from Arabic alphabet and has added four more letter (/b/, /p/, /g/ and /t?/) to it. This Persian alphabet is used in all books, official letters, newspapers and so on. Moreover, there is English alphabet, which is the same well-known English alphabet! In addition, there is another way of writing in cyber space called Penglish (Persian + English) in which Persian language is written by English alphabet. It was a very pop writing way used in text messaging, but after the government duplicated the price of any text message written in English alphabet, it forced some people to change their messaging language to Persian (including me!)

And at last, a new way emerged that is totally unlike Penglish: in this way, English language is written with Persian alphabet. It’s not a very pop way and mostly is uses in humorous situations. The most commonly used word in this way is ???? (ok).

Now, let have a look at the chart below to see how all these ways look, for instance, the word ‘apple’, (regarding Steve Jobs!):




Untitled alphabet!





As an Iranian user of internet, according to my own observations and not any statistics, I can say that the most popular way of expressing comments and posts in the cyber space in Iran among youths is both Persian and Penglish. Second rank belongs to English and bronze medal goes to the untitled alphabet!


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