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I don't even know where to begin

I am admittedly not a puzzle person, but I have never seen anything like this, and I am at a complete loss. I have spent an embarrassing amount of time on some weird theories. Any help would be an absolute lifesaver. Thanks!

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    $\begingroup$ That is simply an example of the Burmese script. I can't translate, but at least you know what it is. $\endgroup$
    – merrybot
    Apr 24, 2020 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ Try pointing Google translate at it $\endgroup$
    – Dr Xorile
    Apr 24, 2020 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ It definitely is Burmese, translating is is proving to be a bit of a struggle haha. Kicking myself for spending hours trying to figure out some hidden code, when it was just Burmese. Oh well, thanks for your help. $\endgroup$
    – Noah
    Apr 24, 2020 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ Update: It's actually S'gaw Karen, and from what I can tell there are no online translation tools for Karen. I've done literally all I can do aside from paying a translator. Friend's dad: 1, Me: 0 $\endgroup$
    – Noah
    Apr 25, 2020 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ Do you mind showing the whole page as this photo seems either incomplete or cropped, especially at the right bottom corner. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – H_D
    Apr 29, 2020 at 8:23

1 Answer 1

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Tentative Answer

Even though, as was pointed out in the comments, this is actually simply a text in another legitimate language (S'gaw Karen), we can still approach it as a puzzle since there are no online translation tools, so we will need to use some good old trial and error to get a meaning.

First I endeavoured to transcribe this message as well as possible:

တၢ်ဆါဟံၣ်ဖဲအံၤ

န့ၣ်ပှၤတမၤကွၢ်

COVID-19 ဘၣ်.

တၢ်ဘ...

I found this online dictionary - unfortunately, it requires input from a (presumably) S'gaw Karen-configured keyboard. After a great deal of trial and error and guessing (basically hitting random keys until I got a character looking like one in the picture), and using the hint of COVID-19 as a stimulus, I've made some progress.

If we start with what looks like the first word:

It looks like တၢ် is the first word, which seems to mean thing or to be some sort of indefinite pronoun. An even start.

For what looks to be the second word:

ဆါ seems to mean sickness/disease, which is on track with the COVID reference.

Continuing:

ဟံၣ် seems to mean home/residence, which is certainly on topic!

This one I'm not so sure about, but in context it seems relevant:

ဖဲအံၤ seems to mean here which might apply to the home above.

Now it gets a bit trickier:

န့ၣ် is a particle meaning that or this.

Then we have:

ပှၤ meaning person/people.

Followed by

တမၤ apparently meaning special/intelligent.

Followed by:

ကွၢ် meaning look/consider/seem.

This is followed by:

The word 'COVID-19' followed by ဘၣ် meaning appropriate/correct.

Thus we have the following potential parsing of the sentence:

[Thing] sickness home here that people intelligent look COVID-19 appropriate

Then attempting to apply some of the basic rules from this basic grammar, we see that (like English) S'gaw Karen follows a subject-predicate-object pattern, and additionally that adjectives follow the noun, and adverbs follow the verb and object.

Attempting to elucidate what parts of speech each word plays in the sentence, we get:

[Thing] sickness(es) (n) home(s) (n) here that persons/people (n) intelligent (adj) look (v) COVID-19 appropriate (?adj/adv)

If we now attempt to apply those rules to parse this sentence:

Assuming appropriate/correct modifies the verb look rather than the noun COVID-19 which doesn't make much sense, the only sensible reading I can see of the last few words is intelligent people see COVID-19 appropriately

The beginning of the sentence was still troubling though, but:

We see on page 45 of the grammar that the word we have translated here is an adverb of place, meaning that we should(?) expect it to be proceeded by a verb. Noting that the second word (sickness) also functions as a verb meaning afflict, and that the word before it (see page 12 of the grammar) turns verbs into nouns, it seems likely that here modifies this verbal noun. The word that being an adjective presumably refers to a previous noun, either sickness or home.

Then suddenly, realization struck:

The phrase တၢ်ဆါဟံၣ် (sickness house) means hospital!! (Duh!)

Finally, we can extract the following extremely tentative meaning:

Here in hospital, intelligent people look at COVID-19 properly

Perhaps describing:

Doctors examining patients for symptoms


Some Thoughts

I've tried multiple alternative parsings. I am almost certain that the first line reads:

Hospital(s) here/in which place

The second line definitely seems:

To start with the demonstrative adjective that followed by the word for person/people/someone

However (the one possible alternative parsing I have found), the words following, in addition to our previous parsing, could also be parsed as:

Negative particle followed by try/examine မၤကွၢ်

Which would give a tentative meaning:

Here in hospitals, people do not examine COVID-19 properly

This has quite a different meaning!

Also:

The word at the bottom right is cut off but looks like it is the characters တၢ်ဘ. I don't know what it means.

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  • $\begingroup$ If anyone can think of a better way to parse these words, or a more obvious meaning, please let me know! I don't think the sentence makes quite enough sense as is. $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Apr 30, 2020 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it's more along the lines of rot13(vagryyvtrag crbcyr nccebcevngryl fgnl ng ubzr) $\endgroup$
    – Mohirl
    Apr 30, 2020 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Mohirl Gung pregnvayl frrzf yvxr n ybtvpny cbffvoyr zrnavat sbe gur fragrapr, ohg V pna'g frr nal jnl vg pbhyq jbex (jvgu zl yvzvgrq xabjyrqtr bs F'tnj Xnera tenzzne npdhverq gbqnl). Vs jr sbyybj gur frrzvatyl boivbhf pyhr gung gur svefg guerr jbeqf (cebabha fvpxarff ubhfr) zrna ubfcvgny gura gung trgf evq bs gur jbeq ubzr, naq V pna'g svaq n jbeq gung zrnaf fgnl. $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Apr 30, 2020 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ Impressive. +1 :) $\endgroup$
    – merrybot
    May 15, 2020 at 4:20

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