@: The fulcrum of our digital identities

The Unlikely Evolution of  @ (@ Fast Company) 

Once a bookkeeper’s shorthand, @ has become the fulcrum of our digital identities. How did that happen?

“In Danish, the symbol is known as an “elephant’s trunk a”; the French call it an escargot. It’s a streudel in German, a monkey’s tail in Dutch, and a rose in Istanbul. In Italian, it’s named after a huge amphora of wine…

In 1971, a keyboard with a vestigial @ symbol inherited from its typewriter ancestors found itself hooked up to an ARPANET terminal manned by Ray Tomlinson…

“It’s difficult to imagine anyone in Tomlinson’s situation choosing anything other than the ‘@’ symbol, but his decision to do so at the time was inspired,” explains Houston on his blog. “Firstly, it was extremely unlikely to occur in any computer or user names; secondly, it had no other significant meaning for the operating system on which it would run, and lastly, it read intuitively–user ‘at’ host.”

READ THIS POST because it’s wonderful. I especially love the identification of @ as the fulcrum of an email address. Because it IS one!

And then if you can resist pre-ordering Keith Houston’s upcoming book you’re a stronger person than I. (Come on. It’s called Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation. How could I/you resist?) 

#$*&^! = Grawlix

>> A word for that: Grawlix

Until its OED entry is solemnized, we’ll have to settle for this definition on Wiktionary: “grawlixn. A string of typographical symbols used (especially in comic strips) to represent an obscenity or swear word.” I don’t think I’ll ever look at a character set quite the same way again.

%^&*@ing glorious!

Read the whole thing at Hoefler & Frere-Jones (via @GrammarMonkeys and @mental_floss)

Better than alphagetti*: edible gelatin typography

{ via Colossal }

Current distraction: wondering about the mouthfeel. Chewy? Sticky? Sans-serifs-y? Alphagetti?*

(Subsequent distraction: the curious difference between American “jelly”, which is Australian “jam”, and Australian “jelly”, which is American “jello”.)

 

*If it’s named after what it clearly IS named after, shouldn’t there be an H after that G?

Escape from Comic Sans: would you, if you could?

{ Design Work Life via FFFFOUND! }*

IF ONLY.

Online publishing prefers sans serifs fonts for legibility and general easiness on the eyes. So if one, for some reason, determined (or was forced) to operate solely in the digital realm, the risk of encountering Comic Sans would always exist. That most aesthetically base typeface would always hover in the infinitely nearby ether, waiting to leap out and insult one’s intelligence and sense of sincerity.

If, however, one decided (or, in fairness, was forced) to remain solely in the world of tangible readables, maintaining daily contact with printed matter**, excluding all online readables, one MIGHT, in theory, achieve said escape.

Personally, I’d rather risk potential exposure to abominable web-friendly fonts than miss out on all the glory of the interwebs. Who in their right mind would intentionally shelter from that font of caustic, truthful wit The Oatmeal; NASA’s always-humbling Astronomy Picture of the Day; or, at the more frivolous end of the online gamut, Women Laughing Alone With Salad?

The enjoyment of these wonders might render impossible a guaranteed escape from Comic Sans, but it’s worth it.

* Also, how BRILLIANT is this faux-retro image‽

** (Proper printed matter like books and newspapers and magazines, not printouts of documents typed in Comic Sans.)

A bouquet of alphabetically sharpened pencils

Alphabet sharpened pencils

{ by Dalton Ghetti, on Designers Go To Heaven, via FFFFOUND! }

“Don’t you just love New York in the Fall? Makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of alphabetically sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address…”  — (a slightly altered) Tom Hanks as Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (which, I confess, I have seen at least 200 times).

I am going to New York in the Fall. Am very excited. Excited enough to buy a bouquet of pencils in celebration. If only I could get a set of 26 like this, it would certainly heighten the vacationary* stationery loveliness.

* No, not a real word.

Em dashes and En dashes: A breadth of difference

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An em dash (—) can be used for almost anything: instead of a colon (such as the preceding), to replace parentheses (such as the preceding, and current), or just to represent a sudden change of direction in logic*.

An en dash (–) is somewhat more limited in its utility. Limited to two uses, in fact: firstly, as shorthand for “from” and “to”, à la 9am–5pm; and secondly, to hyphenate two words where one is actually part of another word pairing. As in “post–afternoon tea“, or”anti–Tony Abbott“.

On the other hand, ordinary single pairings like “long, dark tea-time” and “anti-troglodyte” (respectively) require nothing wider than a hyphen.

Based on Mental Floss (where knowledge junkies get their fix). ]

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{ via ilovetypography }

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So the next time someone tries to tell you there’s no difference between an em dash and an en dash, might I suggest you draw their attention to the difference between forMication and forNication?


And if they STILL insist that the difference doesn’t matter, why not offer to release a bucket of crawling, gnashing ants in their general direction.


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* But not all at once. Consider the absurdity of the following:

“Em dashes can be used for almost anything — instead of a colon — such as the preceding — to replace parentheses — such as the preceding, and current — or just to represent a sudden change of direction in logic.”

… THAT doesn’t work at all.