Archive for Typography

How to write "write" in Chinese and Japanese

The word for "write" in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) is xiě.   The traditional form of the Sinograph used to write this word is 寫, var. 冩 (can you see the difference?).  In Japanese that would be pronounced "sha" or "utsusu", but it is considered an uncommon character (hyōgaiji), and means not "write", but "transcribe; duplicate; reproduce; imitate; trace; describe​; to film; to picture; to photograph".

There are a number of words for "write" in modern Japanese (e.g., arawasu 著す, shirusu 記す), but the most common is kaku 書く.  Yes, that kanji means "book" in MSM, but it meant "write" in early Sinitic, whereas 寫 means "write" in MSM but meant "to place; to displace; to relocate; to carry; to relay; to express; to pour out [one's heart, troubles, etc.]; to copy; to transcribe; to follow; to describe; to depict; to draft; to create quotations; to draw; to sketch; to make a portrait; to sign; to formalize" in Literary Sinitic (LS) and Classical Sinitic (CS)   This is a good example of how Japanese often tends to retain older meanings of characters in the modern language, whereas in MSM characters have a propensity to take on new and quite different, unexpected meanings (e.g., zǒu 走 ["walk" in MSM] meant "run" in LS and CS).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (49)

Mongolian script on RMB bills

Comments (3)

Radical emphasis

Tong Wang spotted this poster in a Beijing elevator:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Sino-English graphic tour de force

Jeff DeMarco saw this on Facebook:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Font adjustment: Times Beef Noodle

Tweet  by Noelle Mateer:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

Spacing within words

Speaking of spaces between syllables (but, as in this case, not all syllables), as we have been in recent posts, this photograph of a sign in China was sent in by Paul Midler:

But the lettering is very nice!

Comments (8)

An inconclusive psycholinguistic take on post-period spacing

A while back, I peeved about the people for whom public devotion to single-spacing after a period is a form of virtue-signaling. I've now learned that the one-space-or-two issue has found its way into the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, which has posted "Are two spaces better than one? The effect of spacing following periods and commas during reading" ($) by Rebecca Johnson, Becky Bui, and Lindsay Schmitt.

The paper came to my attention via Matthew Butterick, the author of Typography for Lawyers and the free, online-only Butterick's Practical Typography ("Are two spaces better than one? A response to new research"). He writes:

Ap­par­ently de­fy­ing Bet­teridge's Law, the study claims to show that two spaces af­ter a pe­riod are eas­ier to read than one. On its face, this also seems to con­tra­dict my long­stand­ing ad­vice to put only one space be­tween sen­tences.

Be­cause the study costs $39.95 for a PDF, I'm cer­tain the so­cial-me­dia skep­tics rush­ing to claim vic­tory for two-spac­ing have nei­ther bought it nor read it. But I did both.

True, the re­searchers found that putting two spaces af­ter a pe­riod de­liv­ered a "small" but "sta­tis­ti­cally … de­tectable" im­prove­ment in read­ing speed—about 3%—but cu­ri­ously, only for those read­ers who al­ready type with two spaces. For ha­bit­ual one-spac­ers, there was no ben­e­fit at all.

Fur­ther­more, the re­searchers only tested sam­ples of a mono­spaced font on screen …. They didn't test pro­por­tional fonts, which they ac­knowl­edge are far more com­mon. Nor did they test the ef­fect of two-spac­ing on the printed page. The au­thors con­cede that any of these test-de­sign choices could've af­fected their findings.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (42)

Hey Geoff (Pullum),…

In MS Word, buried deep in File|Options|Advanced|Compatibility Options|Layout is the option to check 'Do full justification the way WordPerfect 6.x for Windows does'". If you use full justification, your document will look ugly unless you check that box.

Does that qualify as a form of nerdview?

Comments (10)

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 ago, 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (52)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (37)

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)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)