Do what to the switch?

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Quick! What does it say?

This comes from an anonymous reader, who found it while searching here for a Chinese character font for their iPad and asked: "Is this another do/dry error?"


Now that you've made your choice of readings for what to do to the switch on the turntable, here are some additional references to consider:

[Thanks to Ben Zimmer]


  1. S Frankel said,

    May 4, 2016 @ 1:20 pm

    Not exactly a keming problem, but a font disaster nonetheless:

  2. Theophylact said,

    May 4, 2016 @ 1:40 pm

    My Kindle frequently converts not only "rn" to "m", but "cl" to "d". This happens especially when it's rendering foreign words that were italicized.

  3. Dick Margulis said,

    May 4, 2016 @ 2:17 pm

    @Theophylact: Your Kindle doesn't do that. The OCR software that converted the scanned image of a printed page to text did that. This is an artifact of cheapskate publishers' not wanting to pay human proofreaders to catch and correct the scannos. Complain to the publishers, early and often, and demand a refund. If enough people do so, maybe they'll decide quality really does matter.

  4. Roger Lustig said,

    May 4, 2016 @ 3:30 pm

    Remember when all-caps lettering in comic books dictated the banning of the word "flick"?

  5. Roger Lustig said,

    May 4, 2016 @ 3:31 pm

    Oops–that's covered in one of the linked pieces. Never mind…

  6. Houser said,

    May 4, 2016 @ 3:45 pm

    This sign, along US-78 in Mississippi, has fooled me several times as I drove to Memphis at 75 mph:

  7. Francois Lang said,

    May 4, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

    @Roger Lustig

    Same problem with "CLINT"

  8. ardj said,

    May 5, 2016 @ 12:48 am

    Smashing example,but I remain uncertain about what I should do with the switch. Of course much of this is in the eye of the beholder, which in my case does not work very well.. There is a machine rental agency near me in Languedoc, for the wine growers of the district, that is called MecaGrap. I unfailingly read it – and have discovered I am not alone – as MegaCrap.

  9. richardelguru said,

    May 5, 2016 @ 5:33 am

    Then there was the 'ZORRO FLICKS FILMED HERE' sign I once saw outside a motel in (I think) Carlsbad, California with a similar kerning malfunction.

  10. Terry Hunt said,

    May 5, 2016 @ 9:59 am

    Around 35 years ago the academic bookshop in which I worked stocked some erudite tome by an eminent academic surnamed Flick. The book had no dust jacket, and the lettering on the boards was in tall, thin and tightly kerned san serif capitals which made the surname appear at first and even second glance as one might expect in these circumstances. I remember being surprised at the time that the publisher (I think a university press) would make such an infelicitous choice. Unfortunately, at this remove I can't remember any pertinent details that might enable an identification of the volume in question.

  11. Bill Taylor said,

    May 5, 2016 @ 10:17 am

    Or this one from a recent book jacket. Seems like the designer may have tried a bit to avoid the alternate reading, with minimum kerning and a dot over the i, but I find it's still easy to misinterpret when glancing quickly.

  12. J. W. Brewer said,

    May 5, 2016 @ 1:47 pm

    A more extreme done-on-purpose example:

  13. Matthias Neeracher said,

    May 5, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

    I'm reminded of the history of the "OK" button, which replaced a "DoIt" button that was easily misread:

  14. Mark Liberman said,

    May 5, 2016 @ 10:21 pm

    See "Why comics avoid the name 'Clint'", 3/28/2006:

  15. Robert said,

    May 6, 2016 @ 12:58 am

    I distinctly remember the back rows of a lecture theatre tittering during a physiology lecture on flicker fusion. It seemed particularly funny as the source of amusement was very close to being an example of the subject under discussion.

  16. Francois Lang said,

    May 6, 2016 @ 7:37 am

    This isn't specifically about kerning, but last Wednesday'x XKCD is about typography:

  17. MikeA said,

    May 6, 2016 @ 10:51 am

    I recall when the chocolate candy "Flicks" changed their labeling from all upper case to the mixed case form. I had known them since I was old enough to read, but in my 20s apparently someone noticed. The event briefly influenced speech (at least among Student Co-op tenants, Berkeley, early 1970s), encouraging such statements as "Yeah, like I give a flick".

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