Arcane Type Terminology

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Joel Mielke's picture
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Joined: 5 Aug 2007 - 10:52am
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Fridays, we would "Throw in" at the letterpress shop. We would loosen the quoins, re-stock the furniture and "throw in" or dump the type out and put it all back in the California Job Cases.

I swept the floors while the journeymen differentiated between d's, p's, b's and q's.

Will Powers's picture
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Joined: 16 Jun 2005 - 10:32pm
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Exclamation points were called "screamers".

Question marks were called "queries".

Thin strips of wood spacing are "reglets".

When spacing material rises in a forme being printed, black marks show between words or between lines. They are called "workups".

In books, several zeroes were often set to indicate a page number to be inserted later, after the whole book was paginated, as "See page 000." These zeroes were called "deadwood" or "bogus."

I can offer more, including one that some may find offensive. but I'm just back at the desk after two weeks off work [and blessedly away from computers] and there are piles of stuff to tend to. So let me get back to this in a day or so.

H N Y to you all.

powers

darrel's picture
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Joined: 4 Feb 2003 - 6:03pm
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Oh...way to keep us hanging! Looking forward to hearing about the offensive and arcane printing terms!

Russell McGorman's picture
Joined: 25 May 2006 - 10:01am
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How the small caps above rendered on IE6.

-=®=-

Joel C. Salomon's picture
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Joined: 23 Jul 2007 - 1:10pm
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 IE7 at least renders em & en spaces correctly. IE6 can't get anything right!
—Joel

Will Powers's picture
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Joined: 16 Jun 2005 - 10:32pm
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OK. Here's the possibly offensive one. Sometimes "deadwood" was set with sorts that were type high, but that had no image on them. They were rectangles that printed black. And they were very easy for proofreaders and comps to spot.

In many hot-metal shops, even unto the 1980s, the term for them was "niggerhead." In fact, that is the only term I ever heard for them. & I was pretty startled.

****************
Let me also clarify "deadwood". That term is used not only for numerical placeholders. Any matter set to indicate where a compositor is to insert other sorts is known as "deadwood." Or "bogus." I worked at a Monotype shop where we had to insert Greek, Cyrillic, and Chinese by hand. Keyboard operators set deadwood to the approximately correct width and we comps would insert the non-Latin.

****************
"Workups" were pushed down with special awls known in the type and printing trades as "bodkins." Or sometimes with a "palm rule." I wish I still had a set of those.

That's it for tonight. Gotta go shovel snow.

powers

popluhv's picture
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Joined: 11 Jul 2007 - 8:18am
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[i]“Twip” and “tittle” both strike me as particularly obscure. Got any others?[/i]

Now I'm just itchin' for the chance to say "that tittle needs to be nipped a twip".

erik spiekermann's picture
Joined: 9 Dec 2001 - 9:28pm
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Looking forward to hearing about the offensive and arcane printing terms!
Do you want me to get started on German terms? For all these weird and wonderful terms in English there are those in all the other languages. I only had to learn them in two languages, and that was hard enough.

Eric Hague's picture
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Joined: 16 Feb 2007 - 10:31am
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German terms would be great

Don McCahill's picture
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Joined: 30 Mar 2006 - 7:55pm
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> Exclamation points were called “screamers”.

Place I worked at years back called them a "bang".

Florian Hardwig's picture
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Joined: 18 Feb 2007 - 6:41am
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German terms would be great

Well, the most frequently quoted surely are ‘Hurenkind’ [child of a bitch] for ‘widow’ and ‘Schusterjunge’ [cobbler boy] for ‘orphan’ …

A voluminous printed matter free of errors – without having made a single correction – is a ‘Jungfrau(enwunder)’ [‘virgin (miracle)’ – yes, printers & typesetters are/were predominantly male], ‘Leading’ is called ‘Durchschuss’ [‘shot right through’?], a ‘Zwiebelfisch’ [onion fish] is a letter accidentally set in a different font (or a letter put in the wrong case), and an upside-down metal letter (so that the cone’s bottom leaves its print) is a ‘Fliegenkopf’ [fly’s head].

There are a lot more; and yes, I’d like to learn about some more from Erik’s experienced vocabulary, too – especially if they aren’t included in this Wikipedia list.

This map, the ‘Typographiae Imperii Accurata Tabula’, is packed with type and printing terms, a lot of them ‘arcane’, most of them in German.
Made by Linotype in 1967, found on Robert Michael’s Flickr pages.

erik spiekermann's picture
Joined: 9 Dec 2001 - 9:28pm
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Zwiebelfisch [onion fish] is a letter accidentally set in a different font (or a letter put in the wrong case)
No, a letter in the wrong case is just a Fisch (fish). A “verfischter Kasten” is a case full of wrong fonts. Sounds like a kosher sandwich, but was more often than not left to the apprentices (like me) to clean up. Which entailed setting all the type from the case into the composing stick to sort good from bad. And then “dissing” it back, as we called that in London.

Florian Hardwig's picture
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Joined: 18 Feb 2007 - 6:41am
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Aha, okay. Thanks for clarifying!
Btw, for those who think ‘Zwiebelfische’ are limited to the old metal days: Try inserting a ďīăċŗĩťıč that isn’t included in Georgia …

James Arboghast's picture
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Joined: 20 Sep 2005 - 1:09pm
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@eliason: Some of Wikipedia’s listed synonyms for the slash are new to me: “oblique, diagonal, whack, separatrix, virgule, scratch comma, slant, or forward slash.” Have any of you called it a whack, a separatrix, or a scratch comma before?

@aluminium: Well, isn’t that still typography? ...Perhaps there’s a need for articles to have a section on ’contemporary variations’ or the like.

I question whether what programmers do can be considered, or defined, as typography. Writing code is a form of typesetting in the sense that letters are set, but is it really typesetting or typography? I submit that it is not, because the goal of programming is not to set type in an aesthetically pleasing and coherent manner, but to write code to control the functions of a computer. Two different activites or professions are equated and conflated.

The definition of typography is being broadened to include things which are not typographic, but linguistic or semantic. Certain tasks in programming are being conflated with typography tasks.

So if the inclusionist philosophy wins in this absurd encyclopedestrianization of everything, and terms used by programmers must be included in typography articles because they are "contemporary vernacular", the sensible thing to do is make it clear what came from where, distinguish between typography and "codesetting". That would be a useful word for it. When composing you are typesetting, when writing code you are codesetting.

j a m e s

Ben Schoen's picture
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I worked a couple of years at a type shop with handset and hot metal still in operation more from nostalgia than dollars and sense. This was in downtown Los Angeles.

Mutt = Em space
Nutt = En space
Bang = Exclamation mark
Point = Period (to make it one syllable when proofreading with two people)
Com = Comma (once again single syllable)
Slug = You could buy slugs, leads, thins, all available at LA Type as different thicknesses of lead for leading.
Pi type = when you dropped the form, kind of like 52 card pick-up
Query = question mark, when proofreading

Ben Schoen

Christopher Timothy Dean's picture
Joined: 22 Oct 2006 - 10:49pm
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.

John Savard's picture
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Twip is probably a term from modern-day typography, either phototypesetting, or the TrueType spec.

But the term "tittle" occurs in the Bible; the phrase "jot or tittle" means either the small Hebrew letter Yod, or a vowel point.

John Hudson's picture
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Joined: 21 Dec 2002 - 11:00am
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The use of twip in typography is new to me.

In computing it is a unit of measurement equal to 1/1440 of an inch, i.e. 1/20 of a PS point, and is used as a base unit of measurement in quite a lot of software.

Reynir Heiðberg Stefánsson's picture
Joined: 19 Nov 2010 - 11:15am
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IIRC, Amí Pro was one of those WPs that metered in twips.

Geviert/gefirt = em quad (mutton) in Germanic languages.
The term 'Hurenkind' was ported as such into Nordic languages -- 'horunge' in Norwegian, 'hóruungi' in Icelandic.

Nick Curtis's picture
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Joined: 21 Apr 2005 - 8:16am
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Eighty-eights weren't only pianos: they were business cards as well. You could get 88-up out of a standard 22×28 sheet of card stock...

John Savard's picture
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Double-checking, I see that "jot" might be Yod, or it might be Iota.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tittle

@John Hudson:
The use of the term "twip" in computing to refer to 1/20th of a point makes it a typographical term, not just a computing one. Even if it's only used... at the edges of the typographical community as it were.

John Hudson's picture
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Joined: 21 Dec 2002 - 11:00am
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I don't think it qualifies to make twip a typographical term that it is a subdivision of a unit used in typographical measurement. That would be like saying that 'inch' is a motoring term because it is a subdivision of a mile.

oprion's picture
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Joined: 15 Nov 2007 - 12:15pm
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The rules of our chapel strongly prohibit friars and monks.

Used to be, a devil would know his trade from gutter to gallows, from coffin to stone, now, all they do is hang pigs all day long, or waltz about with a hellbox.

John Savard's picture
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It's true that an inch is not a motoring term merely because it is a subdivision of a mile. But the fact that a twip is a subdivision of a point does strongly indicate it was used by people who were working with causing text to be imaged on paper.

So I considered it to qualify as a typographical term on the basis that it is still a typographical term when it is used by computer geeks playing at typography instead of by Real Typographers. But that would make it an obscure typographical term, because you would not find it in looking at a book about typography!

It seems to be part of Microsoft's Rich Text Format, along with being used in Visual Basic - and, yes, Microsoft is credited as originating the term.

Reynir Heiðberg Stefánsson's picture
Joined: 19 Nov 2010 - 11:15am
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That would explain it. It's too computer-y to be a Real Typographical Term.

Anyway, I looked up some Danish typoterms on the 'Pedia:

Jesus letters: The largest possible letters on a front page.
Funeral: Missing word or words.
Wedding: Repeated word or words.
Widow: A last line with one short word.

Paul Bardo's picture
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Joined: 9 Feb 2012 - 5:07am
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This is a fascinating thread. Quite a few of those terms certainly are arcane.

Am I the only one to notice that the link to this thread on its referring page (terminology) contains a typo:

Discussion:
Aracane Type Terminology

Reynir Heiðberg Stefánsson's picture
Joined: 19 Nov 2010 - 11:15am
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"Ara!" Kasumi kasumied.

@oldnick – Eigty-eight: Driver reverse! (British Army bingo call-out in WW2)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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