The beauty of the Google Doodle is that it can be used to highlight pretty much anything or anyone. Just this week, Google’s Earth Day Doodle emphasized the essential importance of planting trees, especially because the earth’s climate and environmental solidity appears to be deteriorating so rapidly. Today, however, Google is using its Doodle to draw attention to the letter Ñ, which is apparently the only letter in the Spanish alphabet which actually originated in Spain. The letter, which bears a tiny tilde over itself, is now an important part of Hispanic identity and has a fascinating history.
According to Google, back in the 12th century, Spanish scribes were busying themselves with hand-copying Latin manuscripts and translating them into Spanish. Given that this was time-consuming and laborious work, the scribes decided to save time by shortening certain words with double letters; in doing so they developed the letter n with a tiny squiggle over it in order to signify this shift. An example of what this meant is that the Latin word for year, annus, became año in Spanish. Ñ was eventually officially entered into the Royal Spanish Academy’s dictionary in 1803, and as of today, the letter appears in an astonishing 17,700 Spanish words.
The Google Doodle itself is impressively abstract, and it was made by the Barcelona-based artist Min. “I’m a typography lover, so it felt special to celebrate a character so rarely used in languages other than Spanish,” Min said in an interview. “For the artwork, I was most inspired by geometric shapes and Spanish-speaking countries’ flag colors.” When asked what message they hoped people would take away from their Doodle, Min was similarly eloquent. “Language is a live organism and a part of our identity. Our differences are what make us unique.”