A post from Shady Characters

Miscellany № 10

Shady characters seem to be popping up in the mainstream media more and more regularly these days. Having discussed its signature use of the diaeresis only a few weeks ago, this month the New Yorker turns its attention to the ‘þ’, or ‘thorn’, a medieval consonant used to represent a ‘th’ sound. In a post on the magazine’s book blog, Mary Norris explains how she shepherded a stray thorn through the composition and proofreading processes — and apparently met with very little resistance in doing so. This heartens me as to the prospects for the Shady Characters book; the ‘þ’ is positively prosaic compared to some of the Unicode mining I’ve been engaged in of late.

Next up, The Atlantic’s sister site The Atlantic Wire has a bee in its bonnet over a (perceived) decline in the standards of punctuation in emails. Making the case that in order to fix a problem, you must first recognise it, Rebecca Greenfield enumerates punctuational sins such as overused exclamation marks and the wanton deployment of ellipses. I am apt to agree with the enigmatically-named brian, whose to-the-point response takes pride of place at the top of the comments on Ms Greenfield’s second article:


Lastly, a bit of fun: London design firm to the point recently made an engaging little typography game available. It may be based on a terrible pun, but I Shot the Serif is nevertheless a diverting way to spend five minutes ridding the world of fuddy-duddy seriffed typefaces in favour of sleek sans-serifs.

5 comments on “Miscellany № 10

  1. Comment posted by John Cowan on

    Sleek but 0nly semi-legible: llIIlIlI, what is that (in a sans serif font)?

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi John,

      I agree completely! I was attempting to throw a little irony in with that statement. Perhaps it could have used an inverted exclamation mark.

      Incidentally, I notice that the letter ‘o’ at the start of the word “0nly” in your comment is actually the digit zero — doesn’t that militate against the idea that sans serif typefaces are naturally less legible?

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Comment posted by Andy Wilson on

    Thanks for the update, Keith.
    This made me laugh: “ridding the world of fuddy-duddy seriffed typefaces in favour of sleek sans-serifs.” On a website which distinguishes itself from most others by using a font with serifs!

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Andy — thanks for the comment! After writing so much about irony I thought it was about time I threw a little of my own into a post.

  3. Comment posted by Sune Mølgaard on

    Incidentally, the “Eth”, related to the “Thorn” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eth ) survives to this day in Icelandic, which, by the way, is thought to be the one living language which most closely resembles Old Norse…

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