Beautiful Ligatures in Macedonian Cyrillic

Macedonian is a Slavic language closely related to Bulgarian. My untrained ear can’t tell the difference between the two, but my eyes spot differences immediately. In addition to minor variations in spelling and grammar, Macedonian’s Cyrillic alphabet uses a handful of characters not present in Bulgarian’s, for example the beautiful ligatures for “ль” and “нь”: љ and њ, respectively.

Ligatures for upper and lowercase "Lje" and "Nje" characters (rendered in PT Sans)
Ligatures for upper and lowercase “Lje” and “Nje” characters (rendered in PT Sans)

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The Only Bulgarian Word Beginning With Er Golyam

Here’s a bit of trivia for your next cocktail party: there is only one word in the Bulgarian language that begins with er golyam (ъ). Behold ъгъл!

"ъгъл" (rendered in PT Sans)
“ъгъл” (rendered in PT Sans)

It means “corner” and sounds something like “uh-gul.” Er golyam is otherwise very common and appears in the name of the country itself, for example: България (Bulgaria).

Finding Er Maluk

This is an ode to er maluk (ь), the most beautifully subtle and rare letter — at least in Bulgarian — of the Cyrillic script. As your perception of its beauty is highly dependent on your operating system, web browser, and available fonts, I’ve prepared a pre-rendered sample so that you may gawk at its understated glory:

Er maluk (in the PT Sans font)
Er maluk (in the PT Sans font)

When I was learning to read and write Cyrillic a few years ago I thought this character looked simple and unique. To my dismay, it was explained as “having no sound” and “not being used very often.” Coming from a linguistic background of English, Spanish, and Swahili, I was thinking, “What the hell does that mean?

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