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Typography Blog Archive

Weird Typography

August 10, 2005 | Ten Surprising Typographical Facts

Growing up, I thought a lot of dumb things. I never really believed, for example, that people actually lived in Brooklyn—to me the borough and its off-kilter residents seemed as made up as Riverdale and an adolescent garage-band called the Archies. Now that I actually call Brooklyn home, however, nothing much surprises me anymore. The idea that I spend free time reading typography books rather than collecting baseball cards, for example, is no longer a cow-kick to the head. In fact, the explanation for how I dropped baseball cards for typography is simple. I inadvertently learned the origin of the ampersand and never looked back. That etymology and nine other weird and surprising typographical facts appear below.

1. The word “alphabet” is simply a joining of the first two Greek Letters, alpha and beta.

2. The correct terms for describing the difference between “ABC” and “abc” are majuscule and minuscule, but most non-typographers prefer uppercase and lowercase. The origin of these more common terms is surprisingly literal—printers once assembled pages from subdivided drawers or “cases” of wooden letters, and because minuscules were used more frequently, these letters were kept at waist-level in the lower of the two cases. Continue reading Weird Typography.

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