The writers need a new language. But they don't want to actually invent a new language. So they make the "new" language a cipher of English -- usually, a [[ substitution cipher]] -- with the same words, grammar and all. Typically, an entirely new 26-letter alphabet is invented, but occasionally "cryptogram"-style ciphers are used, as in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' and ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick''.

Works from non-English-speaking countries may do the same with their own language or alphabet, but not always.

Frequently people make these fonts available for download to use as actual fonts when typing.

See also {{Wingdinglish}} and TheBackwardsR. When writers take it even further and start creating new lexicons, syntax, and grammar, on into a full-blown original language, you get the supertrope ConLang.


[[folder: {{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* [[ Digicode]] in ''Franchise/{{Digimon}}'' is a cypher of katakana and English. The fourth season only uses three or four symbols, though.
* ''Anime/DogDays'' has a cypher of katakana. That they use to spell English words.
* ''Anime/HaibaneRenmei'' has an ancient alphabet which is basically written sign language. [[spoiler: The sign language appears first, and is said to be indecipherable by those not in the know, but Rakka finds a gravestone with a familiar name written on it and recognizes the symbols as hand gestures.]]
* The runes of ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica''. They are not just a substitution cypher, they are also [[GratuitousGerman in German]]. They also come with three variants!
* ''Manga/RaveMaster'' has the dead language Symphonian, which substitutes hiragana for characters made up of English letters. For example, the symbol for 'ka' becomes a sideways 'K' with an upside-down 'A' on top of it.
* ''Anime/QueensBlade'' uses a cypher of ''English'' (at least in the sequel ''QB Rebellion''). Subverted, as anyone can easily read those runes if you notice them enough.
* ''Franchise/YuGiOh'':
** In ''Anime/YuGiOhZEXAL'', the [[ Astral glyph]] "alien language" on the Numbers cards is a cipher of Japanese katakana, while the [[ Numbers symbols]] correspond to Arabic numerals/European digits. Likewise, the Varians' writing system is a cipher of the Roman alphabet.
** A variant is also seen in the original series, where the text on The Seal of Orichalcos is written in romanized Japanese using the [[ Enochian]] alphabet.
* Starting with ''Best Wishes'', the ''{{Anime/Pokemon}}'' anime started using a cypher language (well, [[ three]] cypher languages) for background signs and the like. The text generally translates to a mix of romanised japanese and garbled english, though some of it is apparently just gibberish.

[[folder: ComicBooks]]
* Builder Machine Code, an "alien" language in Hickman's run of ''[[Comicbook/JonathanHickmansAvengers The Avengers]]''.
* ''ComicBook/{{Legion of Super-Heroes}}'' uses a substitution-cipher font to represent the future language Interlac; both the comics and [[WesternAnimation/LegionOfSuperHeroes the cartoon series]] use this for in-jokes.
* ''Comicbook/{{Superman}}'''s home planet Krypton's language has a substitution cipher.
* [[Franchise/MarvelUniverse Marvel]]'s Doopspeak (the language spoken by the character Doop from ''[[ComicBook/XForce X-Statix]]'') was a substitution cipher using the font "Roswell Wreckage".
* The ''ComicBook/BlueBeetle'' scarab's language was originally represented by a substitution cipher, but eventually transitioned over to English. In a clever move, during the transition, they used an alien-looking font in a style that resembled the substitution cipher, but whose characters could be made out as the Roman alphabet.
* The Symbion alphabet in [[ Sectaurs]], a MerchandiseDriven comic from TheEighties, is not only a substitution cipher for the English alphabet, but based closely on, of all things, the cipher used by the [[BrotherhoodOfFunnyHats Freemasons]].
* ''ComicBook/NewMutants'': The [[ demonic script]] spoken in ''New Mutants'' #17.
* ''ComicBook/SecretInvasion'''s Skrull language, an English substitution cipher with multiple fonts of different sets of characters.
* In ''Comicbook/XMen'', one member of the Starjammers' thoughts are expressed in what looks like a cipher, but if viewed carefully, turns out to be very oddly-lettered English.
* ''The Shadow Strikes'' issue 1 did this for what was supposed to be Russian.
* Quite a bit of the Worthies' BlackSpeech in ''Comicbook/FearItself'' is English written with the Elder Futhark runic alphabet as a cypher. Matt Fraction then used the same system in a ''Defenders'' title.
* In ''Comicbook/{{Tintin}}'' the Syldavian language is in fact a dialect of Flemish written in a cyrillic-like script.
* Played entirely straight in Hickman's ''[[Franchise/TheAvengers Avengers]] World'' with Adam's language.
* The original ''ComicStrip/BuckRogers'' strip had a modified alphabet and calendar.
* The original ''ComicBook/{{Micronauts}}'' had a lovely-looking alphabet based on Devanagari. Invented by Michael Golden, it had a one-to-one correspondence with most English sounds.
* In ''ComicBook/PaperGirls'', the untranslated alien language is rendered using a simple substitution cypher. [[spoiler: This may be because they're not aliens, but humans from the future.]]

[[folder: {{Film}}]]
* The Vogon written language in ''Film/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'' is a stylised version of Pitman 2000 shorthand
* The Gelfling language in ''Film/TheDarkCrystal''. We only hear a few lines, but it's pretty obvious.
* In ''Film/StarTrekTheMotionPicture'', it was decided in post-production that it would make sense for a scene set on Vulcan and featuring all-Vulcan characters to feature the Vulcan language. Since the scene was already shot, they just recorded lines that roughly matched the actors' English lip movements. The same process happened to a short exchange between Spock and Saavik in ''[[Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan The Wrath of Khan]]''.

[[folder: {{Literature}}]]
* A major plot point in ''[[Literature/TheUnderlandChronicles Gregor and The Code of Claw]]''.
* Creator/PiersAnthony sometimes does this for the language barrier between Xanthians and Mundanes outside ''Literature/{{Xanth}}''.
* The Literature/ArtemisFowl series has lines of Gnommish and Centaurian running along the bottom of each page (omitted in some U.S. editions.) Rather than being graphemes of a full-on ConLang they constitute a CypherLanguage offering [[EasterEgg secret messages]] to those who decode them. Though this is only applicable for the codes along the bottom of the pages--in-universe, Colfer instead makes them completely separate languages.
* [[ Aurabesh]] (sometimes Aurebesh) in the ''Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse''. It has a few new characters for common two-letter combinations like "th", but whether they get used varies.
* ''Literature/{{Dinotopia}}'''s footprint alphabet, supposedly invented by small three-toed dinosaurs running on wet sand.
* Even Creator/JRRTolkien was not above this.
** The writing on the map in ''Literature/TheHobbit'' is plain English, written with Old Norse runes as a simple substitution cipher. If you already knew the runes it wasn't that much of a cipher. To be fair, he was supposed to have been translating the Red Book in the first place to get ''The Hobbit''. At least, he was by the time he finished ''Lord of the Rings''.
** This is stated in the ''[[Literature/TheLordOfTheRings LotR]]'' title page. The Cirth at the top read "The Lord of the Rings, translated from the Red Book" while the Tengwar at the bottom continue, "of Westmarch by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Herein is set forth the history of the War of the Ring and the return of the King as seen by the Hobbits."
** Most of the people who use tengwar in RealLife are using it in this way, rather than using it to write actual Elvish languages, though the better ones at least make a set of phonetic rules to write English in rather than substituting English spelling.
** Tolkien's runes aren't a "simple" substitution cipher. The phonetic rules are necessary because, for example, there's no direct equivalent of the letter X, and the combination TH is represented by a single character (and depends on whether it's voiced (then) or unvoiced (thin)).
* Converting the Hebrew characters of "golem language" statements in ''Discworld/MakingMoney'' reveals that it's in English, although spelled phonetically in part.
* In the Sarah Woolson mystery ''The Cliff House Strangler'' by Shirley Tallman there is a diary written in what is supposed to be Coptic.
* Used for the Thargon language in excellent picture book "Why", by Lindsey Camp, illustrated by ''[[Literature/LittlePrincess Tony]]'' ''[[Literature/AmberBrown Ross]]''.

[[folder: LiveActionTV]]
* The Hebrew alphabet is used for this purpose in the Aussie version of ''Series/TheAmazingRace''.
* The creators of ''Franchise/{{Stargate|Verse}}'' made a cypher to function as the Ancient language during production of ''Series/StargateAtlantis''. It even fed back into the [[Series/StargateSG1 main series]], though obviously episodes from before the premiere of Atlantis don't use the actual cypher, but are just "made up as we go" blocky-looking symbols. ''Series/StargateUniverse'' uses the cypher, too, drawing most attention to the numbers of the countdown clock. Enterprising viewers have [[ created a font called "Anquietus"]] and some fans are fluent in written Ancient (which isn't as hard as it sounds; it could easily be learned in a day and mastered in a week).
* In ''Series/KamenRiderKuuga'', the untranslated language the villainous Grongi speak is a simple substitution cipher of Japanese. The Linto runes themselves [[ feature a stylized form of Katakana]] (Note: Website is in Japanese). They also added a sentence structure switch that only existed part of the time.
* In ''Series/KamenRiderGaim'', possibly as a MythologyGag, the Overlord Inves speak in a foreign language that's, again, a cipher of Japanese. The language was subtitled into Japanese on the show, but the closed captioning track itself included the original cypher, allowing people to [[ figure out the pattern]]. Unlike in Grongi, the sentence structure remains the same.

[[folder: TabletopGames]]
* When Games Workshop released [[TabletopGame/Warhammer40000 Tau]], they used such an alphabet for the Tau's language.
* Used for elvish and dwarven scripts in some TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms products.

* ''Toys/{{BIONICLE}}'' is a borderline case. It claims that the characters are [[TranslationConvention speaking a different language]], but it also provides a 26-letter alphabet with stylized, circular or hexagonal letters, and most of the written text in the canon consists of English words written in the BIONICLE Glyphs. Then again, this may still be the TranslationConvention at work.

[[folder: VideoGames]]
* ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'':
** Al Bhed from ''Videogame/FinalFantasyX''. Happily, the cypher is designed so that the replaced letters can (usually) be pronounced phonetically and still sound like a real language, both in English and in Japanese. It had to be, since there are some voice-acted parts in Al Bhed.
** ''Videogame/FinalFantasyX'' also features three written scripts, dubbed Spiran, Yevon, and Al Bhed by fans. They're all English alphabet ciphers.
* Hylian is like this in ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'' series. More specifically, it's a code for Japanese kana in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime'' and ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker'', and a code for English in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess'' and games released afterward. ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaBreathOfTheWild'' does the same English-code approach with the ancient Sheikah language found on the various {{Magitek}} devices.
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls''
** The Daedric alphabet is a substitution cypher of the standard Latin alphabet, with symbols replacing letters. However, Daedric runes are not arranged like Latin letters - it's quite common to see writing in Daedric written vertically or with runes superimposed over others.
** The [[AbusivePrecursors Ayleids]] and [[OurDwarvesAreDifferent Dwemer]] are two types of (presumably) extinct [[OurElvesAreBetter races of Mer (Elves)]]. Each has similar substitution alphabets.
** The in-game book "[[!_Kvata!_Kvakis! N'Gasta! Kvata! Kvakis!]]" is a book written in the language of the slug-like [[PettingZooPeople beast-folk]] Sload. It was written by the infamous Sload {{Necromancer}} N'Gasta, and is said to be ''the'' preeminent book on necromancy, even centuries after his death. The cypher is of slightly altered ''Esperanto'', of all things.
* The dinosaur language "Saurian" in ''VideoGame/StarFoxAdventures'' -- in fact, [[ the key to decode it]] is even given in the game's manual.
* ''VideoGame/TalesSeries'':
** Melnics in ''VideoGame/TalesOfEternia'' looks graphically like angular, runic Sanskrit, but it's a (good) English cipher.
** ''VideoGame/TalesOfInnocence R'': The Triverse language Kongwai and QQ are using is actually backwards Japanese with slight modification in the spelling, such as when the reversed sentence is supposed to end with consonant. This is noticeable on New Game+, where you can decipher their speech.
* The "Standard Galactic Alphabet" in the ''VideoGame/CommanderKeen'' series simply substitutes symbols for English letters. Episodes 3 and 6 contain translations of the entire alphabet hidden in secret levels (a secret island in episode 3, and a space station in episode 6). The alphabet appears to have been designed to be written with a calligraphy pen, but with slight modifications to a few letters it can be written with a normal pen.
* A ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime2Echoes'' design sheet (viewable in one of the game's bonus galleries) gives a complete set of 26 three-dimensional Luminoth characters and their English alphabet equivalents. They actually work in-game; the Luminoth Lore images are 3-letters that have some relevance to the lore in question. Indeed, the last image in the game's bonus galleries is a very long message in Luminoth script. Eventually, with the exception of one glyph, a French fan managed to fully translate this message, [[ which is a]] very brief history of Planet Aether: "LIGHT PARADISE / METEOR (unclear) DARK HORDE / ING POSSESS TEMPLE ENERGY / HARSH DIVIDE TWO AETHER".
** There's also the [[ Chozo language]] from ''VideoGame/MetroidOtherM''.
* In ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'', the Elites' language in the original ''VideoGame/HaloCombatEvolved'' is English [[SubliminalSeduction played backwards and distorted]]. In addition, backwards messages from the Gravemind are hidden in "Mausoleum Suite" from ''VideoGame/{{Halo 2}}'', and "Black Tower" and "Gravemind" from ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}''.
* The Strogg "Language" in ''VideoGame/QuakeIV''. In ''VideoGame/QuakeII'', it was just English in a ForeignLookingFont.
* In ''VideoGame/SpaceQuestIIIThePiratesOfPestulon'', Roger can view a secret message for getting a high score on Astro-Chicken. If he uses his Secret Decoder Ring on it, he discovers it's an English cipher.
* In ''Anime/FinalFantasyUnlimited'', the native language of Wonderland is a cipher of English. If you want the key, though, you'll have to track down the (out-of-print) artbook.
* Precursor/Old Precursor, a substitution cypher from the ''Franchise/JakAndDaxter'' series.
* Similarly, the ''VideoGame/{{Ultima}}'' series employed a number of these (such as Britanic runes, Gargish, and Ophidian), which were mostly substitution cyphers given in the manuals. It used to be that being able to read Britanic runes marked you as a dedicated (retro)gamer, while knowing D'ni marked you as insane. That was years ago, so both are now likely to signify the latter.
* ''[[VideoGame/FireEmblemTellius Fire Emblem: Path Of Radiance]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/FireEmblemTellius Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn]]'' use a strange curvy alphabet for the "old tongue", which is used primarily by heron and wolf laguz. It's a cypher, but the game never provides the key. Translating it can produce a form of BilingualBonus; particularly Leanne's support dialogue, where most of what she says is actually her complaining about not being able to speak modern languages well (which actually [[FridgeLogic doesn't make a lot of sense if you support her with someone who speaks to the old tongue.]]) The BilingualBonus with Volug's support reveals he is actually one of the funniest characters in the game. For example, wondering aloud if everyone would be so shocked as to stop fighting if he eats an enemy.
* The script in ''VideoGame/{{Aquaria}}'' is a substitution cipher. Lazy players can replace the graphics file holding the glyphs for the Aquarian alphabet with one containing English letters, and have almost all of the text in the game translated, except for a few bits that are painted into the background scenery.
* ''VideoGame/BreathOfFireDragonQuarter'' used a pseudo-Cyrillic alphabet for writing in the game. Not used in game mechanics, but the game creators ended up putting a ''lot'' of EasterEgg notes in the game itself as well as official artwork.
* ''VideoGame/LaMulana'' has what would otherwise be ordinary Arabic numerals rendered in cipher symbols.
* ''VideoGame/NellyCootalot'' uses the Piraglyphics system, where an improvised pangram would be translated into an ordinary alphabet, thus scrambling the letters. To make his particular version work, Bloodbeard used the initials of his pseudonym and the traditional signing "X" (along with [[StylisticSuck intentionally misspelling a vital phrase]]). [[spoiler:Unfortunately, [[NiceJobBreakingItHero Nelly accidentally lets the secret slip into the hands of his evil brother, thus giving him the clues to his treasure!]]]]
* ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeon'' uses 'footprint runes'. While there's no actual direct-to-English alphabet translation ever given, it is amusing in that they are the actual footprint images designed for assorted Pokémon.
* In ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil'' (not the remake), the second laboratory password is "Mole" written in the Runic (pre-Latin Germanic) alphabet.
* ''VideoGame/ShroudOfTheAvatarForsakenVirtues'': The New Britannia Runic language has characters resembling the Elder Futhark runic alphabet.
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetalBlack'' uses a simple numeric substitution cipher for Minion in his Story mode's loading screens.
* ''VideoGame/KingsQuestVI'' had the "Ancient Ones' alphabet", a set of pictographic-looking symbols which is just a cipher of English (although they added four conceptual meanings for each symbol for extra depth). This is actually HandWaved in the ''Guidebook to the Land of the Green Isles'', whose fictional author speculates that the alphabet may have been a code, or that his own alphabet may have evolved from it. Also functions as a layer of CopyProtection.
* ''VideoGame/NiNoKuni'' has the Nazcaän language, similar to the above, but the symbols for I and V double as J, U and W (two V's).
* The White Legs from ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas: Honest Hearts'' speak a broken/pidgin English cypher.
* ''VideoGame/CopyKitty'': Anything related to [[BonusBoss Exgal]] (including its name) is written in the game using a set of creepy looking glyphs. They are just a one-to-one cypher for English letters, and a few fans have decoded it. [[spoiler:The Hard Mode BonusBoss, Aekros, has another cypher language, which is slightly more difficult to decode due to being written backwards.]]
* ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'': You see writing in a strange language scrawled on the walls. Practically the first time you see it is also the same time you see a decoder key nearby.
* ''VideoGame/{{Warframe}}'' tried to go full ConLang but ended up settling for highly distinct dialects of English with substitution alphabets. In the developers' words, the [[CloneDegeneration Grineer]] [[TheEmpire Empire]] use "an idiot-proof bar code" while [[OneNationUnderCopyright the Corpus]] use a Roman-Numeral-styled font with "all the individuality and personality of a die-cast metal stamp". The [[CrystalSpiresAndTogas Orokin]] have the most alien alphabet, resembling fancy calligraphy, with [[PunctuationShaker a bunch of extra apostrophes for no reason]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Pikmin}} 3'' has the Koppaite script, seen scrolling various places in the background. It is a cypher for English, and a lot of it is meaningful, including developer's notes here and there. Some of it, however, is just gibberish.
* ''VideoGame/{{Killzone}}'' feartures a Helghan alphabet (although since there is no in-universe Helghan language and the people of Helghast speak standard English, creating the script was probably motivated more by politics than any actual necessity).
* ''VideoGame/{{Far Cry 4}}'' has shops whose signboards have text which is meant to pass off as either Hindi or a fictional "Kyrati" language. In reality, it is an English cypher, with each English letter replaced by a character from the Devanagari script. This is very different from how English words are normally written in languages that use Devanagari, because it completely butchers the pronunciation.

[[folder: WebAnimation]]
* ''WebAnimation/PonyDotMov'': The message written on the bottom of Pinkie Pie's bottle in PARTY.MOV is in the language of apples from ''Blog/AskJappleack'' episode 75: "Apple Language". The F and R characters are interchangeable.

[[folder: WebComics]]
* [[ Uryuomoco]] from ''Webcomic/ElGoonishShive'' is a cypher with way more complicated rules than most of these, ensuring that the result is "[[AsLongAsItSoundsForeign foreign-sounding]]" gibberish pronounceable by English speakers.
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'' uses a flipped version of the Daedric alphabet from ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'' for its [[OurTrollsAreDifferent Alternian]] script.
* Played literally with Haley's "cryptogram-speak" gibberish from ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'', with a different translation key each strip. The scroll in [[ #1020]] is also a cryptogram, and reads "[[spoiler:Strip [[ #970]] P5 establishes that [[MagicMisfire magic items explode when activated improperly]]]]".
* Hannelore's BlackSpeech from [[ this]] ''Webcomic/QuestionableContent'' strip, which translates into [[spoiler:"I want to fill your scrotum with spiders and broken glass!"]]
* The Black Sun in ''Webcomic/{{Drowtales}}'' use a cypher language that [[ one fan]] [[ helpfully translated.]]
* In ''Webcomic/{{Harbourmaster}}'', this crosses over with TranslationConvention on [[ Page 2 of "Pulp"]], when [[FishOutOfTemporalWater Richard Stevenson]] wakes up and Zefonith tries to converse with him: Zefonith's dialogue is rendered as English written out in the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent the fact that Richard (a twentieth-century American) can't understand Standard.

[[folder: WesternAnimation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLegionOfSuperheroes'' uses a substitution-cipher font to represent the future language Interlac.
* An alien language invented for sight gags in ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'' used this, being a straight letter-replacement for English. It would frequently show up as graffiti or on signs that viewers could interpret to get an extra joke. A second alien language ([=AL2=], to obsessed fans) was invented in the second season, using a much more complicated mathematical substitution, because the writing staff are a bunch of massive {{nerd}}s.
* The CanadianSeries ''WesternAnimation/DragonBooster'' has its dragon script. Again, it's a substitution-cipher font.
* According to WordOfGod, the written language in ''WesternAnimation/StormHawks'' is this and can actually be deciphered if one looked hard enough.
* ''Franchise/{{Transformers}}'':
** ''WesternAnimation/BeastWars'' featured separate alphabets for the Maximals and Predacons, both of which were ciphers for English, although their numbers were a little more abstract (the Preds used a take on Roman numerals, but the Maximals go up to 20 before using Roman). They were used to insert a few {{easter egg}}s into the series. The downloadable fonts just use our modern 0-9 approach for easier read. Autobot and Decepticon fonts are canon and in use across the various series.
** The Cybertronic Optical Code in its written form (in ''WesternAnimation/TransformersAnimated'') is ''literally'' a Cypher Language, being compatible with Morse Code but with circles for dots and semi-circles for dashes.


[[folder: RealLife]]
* The "Maraglyphics" that adorn the wait queue for the [[Ride/DisneyThemeParks Disneyland]] attraction Franchise/IndianaJones Adventure are a simple substitution cipher. The park occasionally distributes cards bearing the translation. Even without, it's pretty easy to decode since the "hieroglyphics" are just ''heavily'' stylized English letters.