Always safer to select an easily recognized typeface for your product. Of course that “ꝺ” on the package does look Irish, but it would seem that not everyone is able to distinguish between an Irish “d” and an Irish “k”. Wikipedia tells us we shouldn’t use the word uncial to describe Gaelic or Insular script, but we just keep on doing it. It’s a comforting word to wrap your mouth around.

Tony O’Reilly’d better not have been visiting NYC last week (the poster’s gone now). He it was who developed the Kerrygold brand for Irish butter exports. His main claim to fame in my world though was his rugby-playing. In an era when it was a rather dour game, he burst onto the scene in 1955 with flair, speed and above all beauty. My aunt loved him, even though he played for Ireland (and scored many a try against Scotland).

Like most teenage rugby players in the late fifties I started tying my boot laces like that.

Properly speaking uncial was written with only majuscule letters (all Caps). In Latin uncialis has the sense of “pertaining to a twelfth part”, hence inch, the 12th part of a foot. I’m not sure just how that came to be the name for this script, which presumably was rarely written in inch-high letters. The Wikipedia entry suggests that Jean Mabillon in the 18th century was the first to describe a script as uncial. The term seems to have originated in St. Jerome’s Preface to the Book of Job where he was either making a joke or a typo. Uncial was being written from the 4th to the 8th century, a period in which Christianity was in retreat to the isles, under pressure from barbarians like the Vikings. This is the time when scribal culture was saved by the work of monks in Ireland, and apparently the useful innovation of the word break was introduced there. Wikipedia suggests that uncial’s use was stimulated by the fact that its rounded character was more easily written on parchment than the more angular scripts which papyrus had supported. Who knows? That The Book of Kells was written in the Insular script variety of uncial has no doubt helped to fix the word uncial in the popular mind.

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