KELOWNA - The "S" brandishing Superman's chest armor in the new film Man of Steel is actually Kryptionian - an alien language a local professor at UBC Okanagan played a starring role in creating.
Just this last week UBC linguist Christine Schreyer was able to reveal how she helped design the Kryptonian symbols appearing throughout the $225 million blockbuster film starring Henry Cavill as Clark Kent (or Kal-El) and Amy Adams as Lois Lane.
Kryptonian is the native language of Superman's home planet Krypton. Along with all the special effects and action scenes director Zack Snyder wanted an authentic new language to emblazon the costumes, weapons, ships as well as Superman's all-important codex.
With her unique research of science fiction languages Schreyer was the woman for the job and was hired back in August 2011 when production was already underway in Vancouver and Burnaby.
"I designed the meaning behind the symbols... You need to understand basic linguistics, starting from the sounds of language and moving up to the sentence structure,” Schreyer said in a press statement.
Schreyer created 300 Kryptonian words inspired by the Cree Syllabics writing system and consulted the graphic designer to create the glyphs and symbols appearing in the film.
"I do have an inner geek who was always interested in Star Trek," Schreyer admits. And with her combined interests in language and culture, she knew by the age of 12 she wanted to be an anthropolgist.
Her research on the Na'vi language created for the film Avatar caught the interest of production designer Alex McDowell. McDowell wanted the film to give the audience a more creative understanding of the "S" on Superman's crest.
"Christine's contribution to the design and meaning of Krypton in Man of Steel was crucial in a way that will not be fully understood by the audience, but without which we would have been missing a layer of meaning and legibility that in my view enriched the film immeasurably,” McDowell says.
Schreyer has also taught UBCO students about the Avatar's Na'vi language and Star Trek's Klingon language in a created languages course.
While there is no Kryptonian spoken in Man of Steel, Schreyer created a marketing campaign featuring an online glyph creator where people can find out their Kryptonian names and corresponding symbol shield. Much like a chinese character, the "S" actually represents a word, Schreyer says, meaning hope.
She says her expertise is still fairly unique to the film industry.
"The linguistic community in filmmaking is pretty small, and I am really thrilled to be part of it," she says.
Should another opportunity arise to work on a film, Schreyer is up to the task.
"I dont get to be creative too often... This is a very fun opportunity, if it came again and it would absolutely do it."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718-0428.