What is Aurebesh?

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Aurebesh is the name of that funky alien writing you can see all over from the neon signs and graffiti on Fleet and Nar Shaddaa to the posters on Corellia and illuminated signs at the tram stations on CZ-198.

Aurebesh, as it is usually seen now, both in SWTOR as well as the movies was developed by Stephen Crane, art director of West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying game back in the late 1980’s. The letters were based on text seen briefly in Return of the Jedi, and the font has seen widespread use in various Star Wars media ever since.

It’s important to remember that Aurebesh is not a language like French or Japanese, nor even like a fictional language like Elvish or Klingon. Nobody speaks or writes Aurebesh. And while the text can often be translated back into English, this is not always the case. Lots of the Aurebesh seen in the movies and the game converts to nonsense. Complicating matters even further is that there are several different variants of Aurebesh fonts floating around. Some use different styles of case, numerals and even glyphs for letters. A sign that appears meaningless using one version of Aurebesh, makes perfect sense under another.

And that is okay. At its most basic level, Aurebesh is simply meant to add to the flavor of Star Wars’ futuristic and alien setting. That the text of the security scan of the shuttlecraft Tydirium is gibberish, but the life jacket worn over Poe Dameron’s flight suit reads “pull to inflate” are both equally valid uses of fake space letters. It’s a fun bonus for overly obsessed fans like myself when the Aurebesh can be translated into English, but I don’t consider it mandatory or sloppy when it doesn’t.

One does not have to stretch to justify even seemingly meaningless uses of Aurebesh. Everyone from classic authors to prescription drug manufacturers turns non-sense syllables into familiar words. Moreover, it’s reasonable to assume many of the signs we see around the galaxy translate into any number of alien languages. Most Hutts wouldn’t deign to speak anything but their native tongue, why would their advertisers do so as well?

Aurebesh is primarily a design element, and I hope this blog can point out some of its interesting and occasionally meaningful uses in SWTOR.