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Where does the term “pi fonts” come from? And who was the first to use or popularize it?
I always assumed it was an odd abbreviation of “pictogram”, but it was never clear because the term is sometimes used to describe any non-alphanumeric/symbol font. If pi does indeed stand for pictogram, that would limit its relevance to a specific subset of symbol fonts – for example, mathematical symbols aren't pictograms.
That doesn't really match up with the kinds of fonts I typically think of when I hear the term “pi” either, which tend to be be more technical and abstract than they are pictorial. Maybe there's a connection to the mathematical concept of pi?
I also considered that there might be a connection to the letterpress concept of “printers pi(e)”, but any connection there seems rather weak.
For whatever it's worth, the term doesn't show up in anything on Google books until about 1970.