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Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 27 Feb 2015 04:32
by clawgrip
It looks like it could be nice, but clearly you've done it freehand with a mouse, obviously it needs some cleaning up first. I make most of my stuff in Adobe Illustrator (you can get CS2 for free off the Adobe website!). A vector-based program makes it easier to get nice curves, straight lines, and so on.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 27 Feb 2015 05:04
by Thrice Xandvii
You can get a version of Illustrator for free!? You sir, have rocked my world!

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 27 Feb 2015 05:07
by qwed117
Thrice Xandvii wrote:You can get a version of Illustrator for free!? You sir, have rocked my world!
Only for insanely old computers. I shudder at the thought of what computer you are using.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 27 Feb 2015 05:32
by clawgrip
I have Windows 7 and I use Illustrator CS2. There's one specific annoying but minor bug (or rather just a lack of precision), but otherwise it works fine.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 27 Feb 2015 05:49
by Thrice Xandvii
qwed117 wrote:
Thrice Xandvii wrote:You can get a version of Illustrator for free!? You sir, have rocked my world!
Only for insanely old computers. I shudder at the thought of what computer you are using.
I think I'm using Photoshop 6.5, soooo...

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 04 Mar 2015 12:39
by clawgrip
Step 4: Design your presentation form

So far, we have focused mainly on the type and position of strokes. My suggestions have turned my really ugly script into a regular and systematic but still kind of boring script. Here is where we will give our scripts some real character.

First of all, you're certainly familiar with the fact that all modern scripts have a number of different typefaces in which they appear. In this thread, there has already been discussion of different fonts and different styles. You may be intimidated by the wide array of styles available for various scripts. I want to narrow this down as much as possible to help beginners settle on something.

I think we can narrow it down to a maximum of three main types: gothic, print, and traditional. Look at the following chart:


(Modern) Gothic (not to be confused with traditional blackletter) is a very basic style, generally with entirely or mostly equal line widths with no serifs. These days, it is the most common style for computer media, as it is easiest to read given the limitations of computer resolutions. Even so, some scripts, such as Oriya, Gurmukhi, and (through retroactive application of the term) several ancient scripts, employ this form as their main style.

Print style is the style most common in physically printed media, namely books and the like. It generally has more stylization and detailing than is found in the modern Gothic sans serif style.

Traditional style refers to a style that was the traditional presentation style that failed to transfer to moveable type for whatever reason. The only one I can think of at the moment is for Chinese. For most, the print style and the traditional style are identical.

For someone starting out and wanting to design a script with character, the print/traditional style, i.e. the most commonly occurring form, is what you're going for. This is not to say that the plain sans serif style is to be avoided; I have made my own scripts in that style which I am happy with. If that's what you like, then please, do use it!
Certainly there are many scripts in the world that have many, many other styles (e.g. Japanese has a style of calligraphy originally designed specifically for writing sumo wrestling rankings, not to be confused with the style developed specifically for kabuki signs), but for the beginner, as I said, the main traditional style is the most important one to go for. Other styles can be derived from this later.

Some things you need to decide are maybe the writing tool, line thickness, nib orientation, what types of serif you want, and so on. We'll go through some of the main things one at a time.

Writing tool
I think Salmoneus covered this fairly well, so take a look at his post here.

Line thickness
There are really three options you have here: Completely (or nearly completely) uniform line thickness, variable thickness at a fixed angle, and completely (or nearly completely) variable thickness.

Completely uniform thickness is the Gothic style we have already covered, so there is no need for much elaboration. I will say, however, that some typefaces still vary thickness a little, even in this style. Here are a couple examples:


Notice how in each example, care has been taken to vary the line width subtly. Nevertheless, this is not a requirement. some fonts really do have entirely even line width. What you do here is up to you.

Variable thickness at a fixed angle usually comes from a pen with a fixed nib. This is always oriented the same way (sometimes with a few small exceptions), producing a uniformity in script appearance. The nib is usually oriented horizontally or on an angle. Vertically oriented nibs are uncommon, though Hebrew and Arabic come close. Look at these examples:


Notice how the thickness of the lines is determined entirely by the nib. The angle you choose will influence the overall appearance of the script. notice also that occasionally the letters will break this thickness, e.g. the swooping end of ‹ر› tapers to a point even though the nib shape would disallow this. The writer can accomplish this by lifting up or angling part of the nib.

Fully variable line thickness is when the thickness of lines is not dependent on direction, but rather purely on stylistic concerns. This can either be due to a pen or brush that varies width based on pressure, etc., or simple aesthetic concerns in carefully written script. There are many examples of this:


The first example, Armenian, is almost a fixed angle style. However, you can see that angled strokes fail to become wider than horizontal strokes, as you would normally expect in a fixed-angle style. Look at the angled tops and bottoms of ‹ա բ ե›, the inner curves of ‹գ զ›, the inner portions of ‹թ Խ› and the rotated orientation of ‹Հ›. So you can see that, it's basically a fixed-angle script with aesthetic alterations.

The second example, the Roman alphabet, has a design principle that forbids thick horizontals (mostly, but cf. ‹g›), and disallows straight verticals/diagonals from appearing directly beside or intersecting with strokes of the same width. Rounded strokes are always thick on the vertical and taper to thin on the horizontal.

Tamil follows a somewhat similar design principle. The left stroke is thin and the right stroke is thick. These alternate, like the Roman script, but again, like the Roman script, curves are exemp and follow fixed patterns.

Chinese line thickness is entirely dependent on the speed and movement of the brush.

So here you're free to do whatever you want. Just make it consistent an it'll be fine.

Serifs, as I'm sure you know, are small elements that extend from the end points of strokes. They most generally take the form of a triangle or rectangle. Sometimes serifs can become conflated with line shape, producing distinctive shapes (I will show an example of this of course). They originate as artifacts of the physical writing process, but end up as an essential part of the standard aesthetic of several scripts. You may elect to include or exclude serifs, but I will discuss them a bit to help you decide.


Notice the various repeating serifs, and the various types of serif within a single script.

Now look at these two. In the first sample, Bhaiksuki, the top line (equivalent to the top line of Devanagari etc.) has become a triangle; the entire stroke is dominated by its serif, obscuring the distinction between serif and line shape. Bhaiksuki doesn't really distinguish between various top types; there is only the one triangle. However, you can see in the closely-related Tocharian (the second example), that there are four distinct top serifs, as well as two bottom serifs (all long descenders have that loop thing, and short ones have that small serif).

Their existence is quite regular, and much like rules for allophony in spoken language, serifs will appear whenever the appropriate circumstances arise. To explain what I mean, I will give two examples: Roman capitals and Chinese characters (I'm using the term "serif" in a very flexible manner, here).

Rules for serifs in Roman capitals:
  • all vertical and diagonal endpoints have horizontal serifs on both sides of the endpoint (AFGHIJKLMNPRTUVWXY);
  • all horizontal endpoints:
    • if on the top or bottom, have one vertical serif pointing inward, which often but not always angle slightly outward (EFLTZ), or;
    • if in the middle, have two vertical serifs pointing up and down (EF);
  • All corners and angles attached to vertical lines on the top left, top right, and bottom left (but not bottom right or middle, and not angles lacking a vertical) have a single serif pointing outward (BDEFLMNPR, but cf. GMNVWZ);
  • verticals that end in a curve take a ball-shaped serif inside the curve (J);
  • all curved endpoints on the top right and bottom left have one vertical serif (usually) pointing outward (CGS, but cf. C)
Rules for "serifs" in Chinese characters:
  • all vertical top endpoints have wide, angled serifs;
  • all horizontal left endpoints have a (usually) narrow, angled flare;
  • all horizontal right endpoints have a thick ovoid, which is noticeably raised above the main body of the line (and usually expands below somewhat as well);
    • if an additional stroke extends down from this, the serif extends somewhat along the downward stroke
  • downward, right-to-left strokes and upward left-to-right strokes, including dots (very short strokes), have a single, blunt, hook-like serif on the left/top side, and taper off at the other end;
  • downward, left-to-right strokes (but not dots) end in a distinct, triangle-shaped flare;
  • downward, left-to-right dots become thick and rounded on the bottom right end:
  • in box-like shapes, the outer verticals extend slightly below the bottom horizontal, but any in the middle do not (however, for some fonts/handwriting, in the character ‹口›, the bottom horizontal may sometimes extend to the right instead of the right vertical extending down);
  • strokes with bottom hooks (as in 永 and 滅) usually become slightly thicker around the hook.
So, I'll be honest here, when I design my scripts, I do steps 2 through 4 more or less simultaneously, and I think that's probably best. I only lay them out separately here to make clear the various considerations that exist.

I have made a few final forms based on the two sample scripts I randomly designed. Some of them are better than others, and some I think need a little (or a lot) more tweaking, but I want to get this post out quickly, so here they are.

Original script:

Sample Script A:

Final Sample Script A1:

Final Sample Script A2:

Final Sample Script A3:

Sample Script B:

Final Sample Script B1:

Final Sample Script B2:

I want to make it clear here that I never had any master plan for how this script would turn out. At each step in this guide I just made some pretty much random changes, and then I just added detailing and elaboration to come up with the finished product. There's no one way to do this of course. Just mess around until you come up with something you like.

Next up, I will be giving suggestions for how to create a script family, meaning hints and suggestions for evolving your script into daughter scripts.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 04 Mar 2015 13:10
by loglorn
B2 looks absolutely gorgeous. No one would've guessed where it started.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 04 Mar 2015 13:14
by Prinsessa
Really great guide so far. Some of the last few iterations are looking very good.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 04 Mar 2015 14:48
by alynnidalar
Wow. B looks amazing--and to think it started from something that was so... well... random and incohesive!

This has been a fabulous guide--I already have an alphabet for Tirina, but I want to create a couple different fonts for it, and the latter steps will definitely help me there.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 04 Mar 2015 18:06
by Thrice Xandvii
I like all these versions in one way or another, but A1 (with some more added polish) and B2 really stand out.

This has been a fantastic guide, Clawgrip, and while I'd like to consider myself pretty okay in the script making department... I'm quite glad you put this together.

What else do you have in store for us?

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 05 Mar 2015 00:37
by clawgrip
Thanks, everyone. The next part will be about evolving your script into daughter scripts. I already have plenty of idea for this post.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 06 Mar 2015 23:40
by qwed117
I standardized the heights of my glyphs, I'll upload it soon!

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 15 Mar 2015 15:04
by clawgrip
This post really took a long time to make. I hope you enjoy it!

Step 5: How to evolve your script into new scripts

So you've made a script, but now you want to make a related script, or maybe even a whole script family. But how do you evolve a script? What are common ways that scripts can change? It's hard to make an exhaustive list of possible changes since really anything can happen, but I'm going to try my best to make a big list of common changes. So let's take a look!

First we will look at a couple changes that operate at the glyph level.

Glyph-level changes
This sort of change affects the entire glyph uniformly, leaving its internal proportions theoretically unchanged.

Glyph rotation
This happens more commonly in ancient scripts. There is no limit for how far something is rotated. Also, individual glyphs may be rotated, or the entire script may be rotated. If all glyphs are, e.g. uniformly rotated 90°, this probably means the writing direction also changed by 90°, but if they are all rotated just say, 20° or something, this is likely just a stylistic change.
  • Notice how ‹A› has been progressively rotated and ended up entirely upside-down
In my first post, I mentioned that glyphs may rotate along with a directional change (e.g. Mongolian, Hanuno'o), or may not (e.g. Chinese, Kulitan), so keep it in mind if you're considering a directional change.

Glyph mirroring
Sometimes, glyphs will be mirrored. Generally this will be left-right mirroring, and it is often associated with a change in writing direction, Though ancient scripts are prone to doing this randomly with some glyphs for no apparent reason.

Glyph resizing
Often, glyphs can have their general proportions altered, becoming wider, taller, more square, etc. This typically affects all glyphs in a script uniformly, but not always.

  • The Dehong Dai glyphs are noticeably thinner than their Old Mon ancestors. This happens pretty much uniformly throughout the entire Dehong Dai script.
  • Only some Brahmi letters get squashed in the transition to Gupta. Here, you can see that while the first two glyphs remain pretty much the same height, the second two are noticeably shortened and widened.
Stroke-level changes
These changes are limited just to one or two strokes within a glyph.

Straight strokes can become curved. This may involve a single straight stroke becoming curved, or multiple straight strokes that meet at angles becoming a single curved stroke.

A curved stroke may become a single straight stroke, or a curve may become two or more strokes with angles.
  • In Toba Batak, the curved line has been entirely flattened.
  • In Tamil Grantha, the left side curve has been straightened into two strokes that meet at a 90 degree angle.
A stroke or strokes may be separated from the main body of the glyph, or a stroke may split into two or more separate strokes.
  • Notice that in Khotanese, the middle stroke has been lowered and separated from the body.
  • In Simalungun, the two lower strokes have been separated from the main stroke.
  • In Khmer and Khudawadi Landa, the closed circle has been opened at one area.
  • In Utama, the two halves have been separated.
A stroke or strokes may join onto the main body of a glyph, or two endpoints may fuse to make a single stroke.
  • The stroke inside the Devanagari circle becomes joined to the circle, forming a loop in Gujarati.
  • The bottom stroke of the Phoenician letter gets attached to the right side of the upper portion in Early Aramaic.
  • The two topmost horizontals in the seal script character become merged into a single horizontal line in the modern script.
  • The horizontal strokes of Early Aramaic all begin to run together, eventually becoming a single stroke by the time it became Samaritan script.
Stroke movement
Sometimes strokes can jump from one spot to another, in essence, a combination of separation and fusion.
  • The top vertical of the South Arabian character gets dropped down onto the main body (and the horizontal stroke is eliminated or subsumed into the larger horizontal stroke below it).
  • In the Khmer examples, the top portions of the three letters detach from the left ascender and move to the right side, creating a new right ascender and sometimes a loop in the process.
  • The dots of the oracle bone character have moved up into the gaps of the upper portion in the modern character.
  • The bar at the bottom of the Phoenician glyph has dropped down so that it is no longer inside the circle (though it eventually returns to the middle in some Latin typefaces)
Strokes can be lengthened with flourishes or through quick writing. This can also lead to a number of changes later on.
  • Landa and Psalter Pahlavi scripts take an extra-long end line. The line in Psalter script actually runs below the following letters.
  • The Telugu-Kannada script extends its endpoint all the way up to the top, high enough for it to acquire the top serif.
  • Aramaic acquires an extra downward stroke. This seemingly small detail resulted in the major divergence between the forms of ‹Δ D› and ‹ر ד›.
  • The ornamental stroke of Shalankayana is extended such that it entirely surrounds the glyph. In a number of scripts, the surrounding flourish was reinterpreted as the main body of the glyph, and the central portion, i.e. the original glyph, was simplified to varying degrees. In Sinhala, it was partially simplified, while in Telugu, it was reduced to a single loop.
Strokes can be shortened for various reasons. This could possibly lead to a stroke disappearing, if it gets shortened enough.
  • The long right descender of the oracle bone character has been drastically reduced in length, so that only the horizontal portion remains in the modern character.
Sometimes, strokes can be added to a glyph. Usually, this is either a disambiguating mark, a flourish, or something to make the glyph resemble other glyphs in the script. It is also a common way to derive new letters when a script is borrowed to write a new language.
  • Arabic added different combinations of dots to many disambiguate letters that had otherwise become identical. It also uses various dot combinations (and other diacritics) to create new letters.
  • Book Pahlavi often did not bother with disambiguators, but this wedge does serve this purpose.
  • Khmer ‹ញ› had its subscript form (‹្ញ›) tacked on to the main form, serving to differentiate it from ‹ពា› (‹ព + ា›).
  • Kannada (and Telugu) is an interesting case. ‹ಠ› had a swash added to its top just for the sake of uniformity, through analogy with other letters. However, the addition of the swash made it identical to ‹ರ›, meaning it then had to receive a disambiguating dot in the middle.
On the other hand, sometimes elements may be removed from glyphs. These may be superfluous elements, or they may be integral elements that were eliminated due to quick writing.
  • New Sundanese script eliminated several superfluous strokes from the old script, as seen here.
  • Many seal characters also had a number of unnecessary strokes removed. This character has undergone a massive simplification.
  • The Proto-Sinaitic characters started out as pictograms, and were streamlined over time, droppingn numerous strokes.
  • The triangle of Phoenician slowly becomes subordinate to the stroke, until by Arabic it has been entirely eliminated.
This simply refers to a change in the angle of a stroke or group of strokes in relation to the rest of the glyph of the stroke. Reorientation may occur with other changes, such as curving, straightening, and lengthening.
  • The middle ascender of the first Old Khmer glyph has moved over to the left and rotated itself up onto the ascender.
  • The right ascender of the second Old Khmer glyph has been rotated and raised, becoming a sort of headstroke above the body of the glyph.
  • The top portion of the Tibetan glyph is rotated, lengthened so that it covers the entire 'Phagspa glyph.
  • The Grantha glyph here gets reoriented differently in Malayalam and Tamil Grantha:
    • In Malayalam, the left portion gets rotated 90 degrees and placed above the horizontal line.
    • in Tamil Grantha, it is straightened horizontally with its proportions adjusted.
Regularizing proportions
Sometimes, glyphs will have a repetitive pattern, but the repeating elements will have different proportions. As the script evolves, these may end up having their proportions regularized for the sake of visual unity (or maybe they will get put out of proportion).
  • You can see how Etruscan had its zigzag element regularized, resulting in Latin ‹M› (and one stroke was eliminated, though it remains in ‹m›).
  • In Buhid, the zigzag pattern is completely regular, while in Hanuno'o the zigzags are different sizes, more clearly reflecting the older form of these scripts than does Buhid.
  • The first Grantha glyph has two round portions, which have been regularized in size, position, angle, etc., to create Malayalam ‹ഗ›.
  • The second Grantha glyph had its ascenders and descenders regularized in height (including having its loop un-looped) to create Malayalam ‹ഢ›.
This is a complex simplification that usually has elements of elimination fusion and movement/reorientation of strokes. Essentially, it is when a number of strokes are eliminated, but their former locations are still marked in some way by one or more new strokes. This is common in complex glyphs that are simplified to save time, in writing, etc.

  • Hiragana derives from cursive Chinese characters, which are all about glossing. In ‹け›, you can clearly see that the all the strokes that make up the left portion of ‹計› have been replaced by a single vertical line that simply marks their location more than it does their form.
  • These simplified Chinese characters do some similar things. You can see how the lines of ‹马› suggest the position of the various strokes of ‹馬›. ‹车› does something similar, though it is a little less straightforward, In a way that cannot exactly be classified as either fusion or elimination or even both.
    The three top strokes of ‹学› and ‹栄› replace whatever happens to be above ‹冖›. Since the same strokes are used to replace a few different elements, it's clear that this is not simple elimination/fusion/etc.
  • When the Old Sundanese character was simplified to New Sundanese, the three horizontal strokes were fused/glossed to create a new shape.
  • As you see the progression of this Cuneiform character from Proto-Cuneiform pictographs to Neo-Babylonian, there is some glossing going on. The Early Dynastic form simplifies the face of the original pictograph into a number of strokes. By the Ur III period form (3rd form), the bowl has been simplified into four strokes, and by the Old Babylonian form (4th form), instead of angled strokes, the shape of the bowl is simply suggested by the shape of the wedges rather than their angles. By Middle Assyrian (fifth form), the head and face have been replaced by several strokes that suggest the shape of the head. The Neo-Babylonian form seems to have adjusted their form further. (There are some other non-glossing changes here as well, notably the bowl slowly moving to the inside of the glyph).
Serif becomes stroke
Sometimes the most distinctive part of a script can arise from simple serifs, as the following examples show:
  • The first two examples show how the characteristic Devanagari headline arose as a gradual widening of serifs on the upper stroke until it covered the entire character.
  • Khmer did something similar, but they became exaggerated both horizontally and vertically, creating the characteristic M-shaped headstroke.
  • Telugu evolved similarly to Khmer, but the curving of the serif resulted in the swash that appears in the majority of Telugu letters.
Change through analogy
Sometimes, a character's shape can be altered through analogy with other characters. This can result in the addition of missing elements, or the elimination of disharmonious elements.


These examples all come from Telugu
  • Once again, the first line shows ‹చ› as an example of the typical evolution of Telugu characters, with the serif forming the top swash.
  • The second line shows an example of how analogy can take hold. The top ascender of ‹స› gains serifs as usual, but eventually, it not only separates from the character, but leaves behind only the swash. This is most likely because no Telugu letter has a swash connected to the glyph via a vertical line, nor does a swash connect to the left side of a "bowl" in any character. As such, the stroke is separated from the body, and the vertical subsumed into the swash.
  • The third character, ‹మ›, shows a different type of change through analogy. The original Brahmi glyph has two ascenders, and you can see that they both begin to develop serifs. However, once the swash becomes salient, the rightmost ascender is conspicuously absent. You'll notice the same thing happens with ‹స› above. Most likely for aesthetic reasons, it was decided around this time that each letter could have a maximum of only one swash.
Stroke reanalysis
This is an important change for creating really divergent scripts. They can start subtle at first, but eventually cause major changes in glyph appearance.
  • In the first example, we see the evolution of the Thai character ‹ส›. Although the original Brahmi character clearly has a single stroke for the U-shaped portion, with a smaller hook attached to the bottom left, this begins to be reanalyzed in post-Pallava scripts so that the bottom left hook becomes part of the same stroke as the right side, while the top portion gets separated. In Thai, this stroke eventually migrated over to the top right side of the glyph, intersecting or even passing through the right-side stroke.
  • In many Philippine scripts (Baybayin, Batangas, Ilokano pictured) the character superficially resembles ‹31› and clearly has one stroke for the "3" and another stroke for the "1". However, in the two right-side examples (Bulakan and Tagbanwa), the strokes have been reanalyzed. In Bulakan, the bottom of the "3" has been connected to the "1", and the top of the "3" has become its own stroke, while in Tagbanwa, the opposite has occurred: The top of the "3" has fused with the "1" (which was subsequently re-oriented upwards) and the bottom of the "e" became its own stroke (which was subsequently exaggerated).
  • Comparing these varieties of Thamudic, the more evolved on on the right shows two types of reanalysis: the top portion (resembling three strokes arranged in a squared "U" has become a single "V" shape, while the two verticals have also been reoriented so that their bottom extents fuse. so what started out as a large body with two top strokes eventually became two disconnected V shapes.
  • The last example shows the evolution of one glyph from Kawi to the bizarrely un-Brahmi-like Sundanese script. You can see that the left portion, shaped like a backwards "3", eventually gets disassembled until there is nothing left of it but three horizontal lines.
As you probably figured from looking at the various examples I've provided, there are a bunch of other more subtle things that can happen that I haven't really mentioned, but I just did my best to sort them into broad categories to help you out.

After this, I will show some actual examples of ancient glyphs getting evolved into various other scripts, and I will evolve some glyphs as examples.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 15 Mar 2015 15:08
by Khemehekis
clawgrip wrote: Step 5: How to evolve your script pinto new scripts
Eldin Raigmore would probably say something about beans.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 15 Mar 2015 15:10
by clawgrip
I have no idea what you're talking about. I certainly didn't name my post that! Also don't bother looking at the bottom of my post because there's certainly no "last edited" message there.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 21:02
by qwed117
clawgrip wrote:I have no idea what you're talking about. I certainly didn't name my post that! Also don't bother looking at the bottom of my post because there's certainly no "last edited" message there.
[+1] [+1] [+1] [+1] [+1] [+1]

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 21:57
by eldin raigmore
Khemehekis wrote:
clawgrip wrote: Step 5: How to evolve your script pinto new scripts
Eldin Raigmore would probably say something about beans.
Or exploding subcompact cars.

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 22:03
by qwed117
eldin raigmore wrote:
Khemehekis wrote:
clawgrip wrote: Step 5: How to evolve your script pinto new scripts
Eldin Raigmore would probably say something about beans.
Or exploding subcompact cars.
Or Pokemon horses

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 23:41
by clawgrip
The typo is funny an all, but I hope some people also noticed the content!

Re: How to design your own script

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 23:42
by Ahzoh
I certainly did.