Every year I stop at the international Christmas market in Daley plaza. My favorite booth is the Nepali vendor from Minneapolis. He always has a tempting array of scarves, singing bowls, tea, and Buddhas. This year as I scouted his booth I saw this.

A bag with exotic lettering.  How could I possibly resist? It turns out the letters on the bag are in Tibetan. They’re supposed to say “Om nami (sic) padme hum,” over and over again. Here are the letters on the bag (five symbols, counting between the suspended comma-like symbols–could these be the “tseg” used to divide syllables?– reading from left to right):

and here are the same symbols on this wikipedia image; Tibetan (Tibetan: ༀམནིཔདྨེཧཱུྃWylie: oMmanipad+mehU~M) on the left, Sanskrit (Oṃ Vajrasattva Hūm) on the right.

Checking out wikipedia for the characters in Tibetan, I find that I can’t read it–it’s all special character symbols in unicode. According to wikipedia, Windows XP does not support Tibetan. Vista does. One more reason to fume about Vista.

The plot thickens. To be continued….

[Looking at this file of Tibetan script, it would seem the letters used here are  (in order):

a (with “o” vowel symbol above)(meaning of the circle above is unknown)


na (with i vowel symbol above)

pa (with consonant cluster da and a small ma attached to the bottom)(vowel symbol “e” on top)

ha (with  something decipherable attached to the bottom of it, perhaps a-nya?)(the two ? symbols above are also unknown)

Ah, my Tibetan phrasebook tells me they’re “consonant stacks”. The symbols over the letters that look like diacriticals represent vowels other than a.]

Above: Om.


But even in Vista, the character stacks fall apart:


Screenshot of Vista presentation:

(It does make some of the symbols easier to decipher.)

Screenshot of what the characters are supposed to look like:

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