Sunday, November 30, 2008


I'm not much of one for annual events, such as national or religious holidays. I might manage a teetotaler's Bloomsday some years. There was a Hangul Day post last year, but that is more a commemoration than a celebration.

But the gift-giving season is when retailers stock up, particularly on items aimed at children. So that is when I am the lookout for some of the things we collect.

To keep posts here from becoming too formulaic, this will be another short and superficial picture post, covering one such collection. Plastic Alphabet Magnets.

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Upon reflection, there seems to be an attraction to magnets in general, whether it is a specimen of magnetite, classic bar and ring magnets, stronger neodymium magnets, or those construction toys with magnetic rods and steel balls.

For rare books, the library copy or a PDF is often enough. But we do happen to have a copy of Athanasius Kircher's Magnes, sive de arte magnetica. (The library with an online copy listed in the texts in that Wikipedia article actually has more of his works than just those listed.) As far as I know, this is the only book we own to ever be featured on the wonderful BibliOdyssey site.

Here is a basic uppercase Roman set:

I am certain that such sets exist with accents and umlauts, but I haven't found them around here. (Despite what people may claim, I haven't even seen one with an Ñ.)

The Cyrillic set I found is made of foam rubber, not plastic, so the photo isn't as shiny:

(I probably cheated making a Й from a И and one of the minus signs.)

The Greek set has complete Greek and Roman alphabets, in both upper- and lower-case. Even the uppercase that are roughly the same shape are distinguished by choosing a somewhat different font for the two:

The Devanagari only has the independent form of the vowels:

It is actually designed here in Boston (see this article), suggesting that much of the market is expat parents and especially grandparents.

I imagine the biggest seller through the grandparent channel would be the Hebrew:

No vowel points, but extra matres lectionis.

The Hangul consists of four complete sets of consonants and reorientable vowels, in four different colors:

(With four ㅏㅓㅗㅜ pieces, but only three ㅑㅕㅛㅠ pieces.) The company that makes these has arithmetic and Roman, too, not surprisingly. (Note how the product name 한글 자석놀이 'Hangul magnet fun' is written out on the magnetic memo-board on that page.)

For Arabic, a rather different approach is called for:

The pieces are color-coded for letters with similar behaviors. When connected, the pieces attach; when not, a tail attaches instead. The kāf rotates around to its final form. The lām + ʼalif mandatory ligature is made by flipping the second letter from behind. Fortunately, I don't need to describe it all, because the product's site goes into details.

I assume more of these exist, but I have not come across them yet. I should make this post even more relevant to the blog by including some photos of vegetable fridge magnets. But the issue is that our fridge has too much nickel in its stainless and isn't magnetic (I took the Frigits and Pendumonium into the office), so I have to locate them first and it seems best not to hold up a year-end post into late January. I will update when they show up.


Unknown said...

Where did you get the Hangjul magnets? I'm learning Korean and I'm looking for a set, but I have no idea what is going on on that site to order them. Is that where you got them from?

goofy said...

The Devanagari magnets are cool. I suppose you could draw in the vowels with a washable marker...

Rachel Cotterill said...

That's fantastic! I'll have to look out for these on my travels :)

Unknown said...

Hi, I'm Korean. I just passed this website and it's so interesting blog =) Anyway, i just want to say...the last of the hangul maget at the first row, that should be arranged like this "ㅅ". Twist the magnet bit rightside. Anyway so glad to see you guys have interest in Korean :)

Anonymous said...

I have been searching everywhere for hangul magnets. Does anyone know where I can buy some online or in the Los Angeles area? Thank you!

MMcM said...

Anonymous, try Aladin USA.

Anonymous said...

Hey. I'm glad I found this page - I've been looking everywhere for Greek fridge magnets with a font like the one you have in the picture. Could you possibly tell me the brand? And anything else that might help me find it?? I'm not sure I will check this, so can you send it to I would appreciate it SO much!