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What city has the most consecutive tittles?

Posted: March 24, 2019
Originally posted to Facebook on February 13, 2017

I always liked seeing "Beijing" in print. The three dots on top of "iji" pleased me long before I understood that I was looking at a rare streak of consecutive tittles. Years later, idly gazing at a map, I noticed "Pijijiapan" in southern Mexico and realized: there could be dozens of terrific tittled towns accross the globe! (Spoiler: there aren't. There's just Pijijiapan.)

Defining a tittle

In the strictest typographical sense, a tittle is the dot that appears over a lowercase i or j. Used more loosely, it can refer to a dot above any letter, such as Lithuanian ė, Maltese ż, and Turkish İ. Used even more loosely, letters with umlauts and diaereses (e.g. German äöü, Malagasy ) can be considered DOUBLE-TITTLED. Even looser definitions count other diacritical marks, and so on.

Using a fairly conservative interpretation (i, j, ȧ, ċ, ė, ġ, ṅ, ȯ, q̇, ṡ, ẋ, ż, İ), I set out to find the city with the longest consecutive set of tittles. The tittliest city. The most tittle-ating place on earth. Turns out, i and j were the only letters that mattered, but at least I checked the others. I don't want anyone calling me out for slipshod tittle-testing!

I used the Geonames database and a few lines of Python. I found a lot more interesting facts than I expected.

Observation 1: Transliterated placenames probably shouldn't be counted

The Geonames database offers fourteen five-tittle populated areas in China. That's more than the rest of the world combined.

But none of these places use the Roman alphabet as their primary writing system. Furthermore, if these placenames were transcribed into the Roman alphabet, they would probably carry tone markers. For example, Paijijiu (排吉久) in Hunan would be more fully transcribed as páijíjiǔ (for standard Mandarin). It's still a pleasant succession of diacritical marks, but I simply can't call it a five-consecutive-tittle placename.

Observation 2: Swahili placenames probably should be counted, but aren't

Canadians know that kijiji means "village" in Swahili, so tittles should show up everywhere in Swahili placenames, right? Weirdly, there are only a few five-tittle placenames that might be Swahili or a related language. There's Horo Horo Kijijini, in Tanzania, and Cyijiji in Rwanda. This feels like a problem with the Geonames database, or a misunderstanding on my part. I should be tripping over five-tittle placenames any time I glance toward the swath of Africa that speaks Swahili or closely-related Bantu languages.

Observation 3: -ij- is waaaay more common than -ii- or -jj-

You've probably noticed by now that all the five-tittle names mentioned go i, j, i, j, i. For some reason, I was expecting a lot more variety in the ways place names reach that five-tittle mark. Oh, but there are a few! There's Jijjīn, Jordan, and there's the Kami-Iijima train station in Akita, Japan. Neither of these count as "true" five-tittle names for a variety of reasons.

Observation 4: Geonames updated its database sometime in the last two years

On my original list I included a village named Kamijiji, in Angola. Geonames now lists Kamijiji as a river in Zambia. I don't know why I'm even bringing this up. I'm just reiterating that my source material should not be considered reliable. I guess you can call me out for slipshod tittle-testing.

The 5-tittle towns that remain

That leaves the following non-Swahili, Roman-alphabet-using place names with five consecutive tittles. In Chiapas, Mexico, there's Pijijiapan and the neighboring hamlet of el Pijiji. In Lower Shabelle, Somalia, there's Faarax Jiijiile which stands out for having a record-breaking SIX tittles in all lowercase AND for bucking the i-j-i-j-i sequence of all the aforementioned places! That said, Pijijiapan has a population of around 50,000 which means it has approximately 49,990 more inhabitants than the other two. It's the only one that could be called a tittly city.

Honorable mentions: there's also Bijijie, which isn't a town but instead a dry lakebed in New South Wales, Australia. And there's Ijijika Well, a well in Madagascar, which only has 5 tittles if you ignore capitalization.