Archive for Typography

Écriture inclusive

In English, singular personal pronouns are almost the only residue of morphological gender. But in many languages this is a much bigger problem, with gender agreement in adjectives, gendered forms of most nouns, and so on. A few years, French proponents of "écriture inclusive" ("inclusive writing") proposed a novel use of an otherwise little-used character, the "middle dot", to set off optional letter sequences and create gender-ambiguous written forms. Thus

Masculine Feminine Inclusive
 intellectuel  intellectuelle  intellectuel·le
 musicien  musicienne  musicien·ne
 représentés  représentées  représenté·e·s

Thus, as Le Figaro put it,

Pour que les femmes comme les hommes «soient inclus·e.s, se sentent représenté·e·s et s'identifient», le Haut Conseil à l'égalité entre les femmes et les hommes recommandait en 2015, dans un guide pratique, d'utiliser l'écriture inclusive.

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Last gasp of lead type

Chen Cheng-wei and staff writer Elizabeth Hsu, "Taiwan's last lead-character mold maker works to preserve the past" (Focus Taiwan, 5/1/17):

Rixing Type Foundry is home to the last remaining collection of traditional Chinese movable type character molds in the world. It possesses 120,000 molds of different characters in a wide range of sizes and three different typefaces — kaiti (楷體) or regular script, songti (宋體) and heiti (黒體) or sans-serif black — and has more than 10 million lead character pieces for printing or sale.

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Hyphenation with words containing capital letters

A truly startling (and surely unintended) hyphenation in the print edition of The Economist (March 11th) suggests that some updating of word-breaking algorithms is in order in the light of the fairly recent practice of inventing product and brand names that have word-internal upper-case letters. An article about juvenile delinquency, reporting that kids are less involved in crime in part because they're indoors playing video games, ends with this paragraph (I reproduce the line breaks and hyphens of the UK print edition exactly, though not the microspacing that justifies the right-hand margin; the only thing I'm interested in is the end of the penultimate line):

    The decline in crime among the young
bodes well for the future. A Home Office
study in 2013 found that those who com-
mitted their first crime aged between ten
and 17 were nearly four times more likely to
become chronic offenders than those who
were aged 18-24, and 11 times more likely
than those who were over 25. More PlayS-
tation, less police station.

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Finding non-Roman letters and characters in an MS Word document

Somebody asked Mark Swofford to help her devise a speedy, easy way to locate all the Chinese characters in a book-length manuscript that she was working on.  Mark set to work on the problem, and this is what he came up with:

"How to find Chinese characters in an MS Word document" (12/10/16)

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How to generate fake Chinese characters automatically

On the otoro blog, there is another amazing article about sinograms:

"Recurrent Net Dreams Up Fake Chinese Characters in Vector Format with TensorFlow" (12/28/15)

I say "another amazing article" because, just a week ago, in "Character building is costly and time consuming" (12/22/15), we looked at a fascinating report on the vast amount of labor necessary to build fonts made up of real Chinese characters.  Basically, the latter report examined the history of Chinese characters and then explained how typographers create new fonts comprising all the characters necessary for printing books, newspapers, magazines, advertising copy, and so forth.

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Character building is costly and time consuming

I would like to call the attention of Language Log readers to an extraordinary article by Nikhil Sonnad:

"The long, incredibly tortuous, and fascinating process of creating a Chinese font " (Quartz, 12/18/15)

I knew that Nikhil was writing this article, because I helped him with the part about the historical development of the script over a month ago.  After that I didn't hear anything from him until yesterday when he sent me notice that the article had just been published.  Now that I've had a chance to read Nikhil's article, I must say that it a unique and amazing accomplishment.

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Phonetikana

On the DramaFever website, Brendan Fitzgibbons has an interesting article that shows how "New font lets anyone learn Japanese" (10/17/14):

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Printing error on a Chinese lunch delivery bag

Eric Pelzl sent in this photograph of a bag from a lunch delivery that contains an interesting printing error:

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Lei Feng: model soldier-citizen

If you don't know who Lei Feng is, you should.  He's China's equivalent of the Good Samaritan and Alfred E. Neuman ("What, me worry?") all wrapped up in one (for those of you who are not familiar with Alfred E. Neuman, one of my high school heroes, here's the real McCoy).

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Sinographic memory in Vietnamese writing

Jason Cox sent in the following photograph of the cover of a Vietnamese religious text and asked what was going on with the "characters" along the left and right sides.


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Washirweng

John Considine found this circa 1880 advertisement in the Hong Kong 2013 catalog of Bernard Quaritch (with the note that "We have not been able to locate any other example of this kind of trade card"):

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Too much Victor Mair

I've been reading way too much Victor Mair. In the restaurant of my hotel in London I just saw an English girl wearing a T-shirt on which it said this:

H O
P E

And I immediately thought, who is Ho Pe?

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Misprint on Chinese money

The Taipei Times for June 27 carried the following article: "Debate rages over currency ‘misprint'".

It is a question of whether the upper part of the long form of the character for the word yī ("one"), i.e., 壹, should be written as 士 ("scholar"), the "correct" configuration, with the ends of the upper horizontal stroke extending beyond those of the lower horizontal stroke, or 土 ("land; earth"), as it appears on certain banknotes, with the ends of the upper horizontal stroke being shorter than those of the lower horizontal stroke. Fortunately, yī ("one") is usually written as 一, the simplest of all Chinese characters, consisting of only a single horizontal stroke. The complicated form 壹, with twelve strokes, is used in banking, business, and so forth, to avoid mistakes and forgery.

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