You say ĭtalics, I say ītalics. It is much more complicated in Cyrillic....

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/08/06 11:32 -07:00, original URI:

Okay, I admit it. When I pronounce the word italics, I say EYE-talics, not IH-talics. But I do say IH-talian, not EYE-talian when I see the word Italian.

I point this out because although she had never corrected me on this particular point even once before, or even ever hinted that the pronunciation was wrong, soon after she had some typography program managers reporting to her, Cathy pointed this out to me one day.

But in the end I think she was just enjoying correcting me; after all, both forms are acceptable in dictionaries for italics but not for Italian! I mean, the point of language is communication, and as long as people get the message neither pronunciation is really going to confuse anyone....

This post has little or nothing to do with that, but it is about italics. :-)

Well, actually it is about U+0453, a.k.a. CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER GJE.

It seems that depending on the font you choose, the italicizes differently. For example, in Tahoma it looks like this:

and with the new Segoe UI font it looks like this:

Boy, that Segoe UI one looks like it has a bug, doesn't it? I mean who on earth would expext a character that looks more like:

(a lowercase r or small gamma than anything else) in any font, including Segoe UI, look more like a reversed s just because it was italicized?

Turns out it is not a bug!

Simon Daniels talked with Steve Matteson of Ascender who had this to say:

the 'backwards s' is the preferred italic form for Russian lowercase Ghe but for Macedonian lowercase Gje it needs to stay the 'small gamma' shape. Sorry I don't know the specifics on why.

Looking up in Wikipedia's article about the Cyrillic script, it does say a bit about this:

In the absence of Roman and Italic traditions, Cyrillic type fonts are properly classified as upright (Russian: pryamoi shrift) and cursive (kursivnyi). Cursive or hand-written shapes of many letters, especially the lowercase letters, are entirely different from the upright shapes. As in Latin typography, a sans-serif face may have a mechanically-sloped oblique font (naklonnyi).

In Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Serbian, some cursive letters are different from those used in other languages. These cursive letter shapes are often used in upright fonts as well, especially for road signs, inscriptions, posters and the like, less so in newspapers or books.

The article also links to another page that has a much fuller explanation, entitled Serbian Cyrillic Letters BE, GHE, DE, PE, TE. The page also talks a bit about the tradition of italics in typography, and the expectations here. A worthwhile read if you are interested in solutions here.

Now I will not go so far as to say that Tahoma and fonts that don't use this form are tailored for Bulgarian, Macedonian, or Serbian; in fact, I'll note that although Microsoft ships a 'Tahoma' and a 'Tahoma Bold' that we don't ship a 'Tahoma Italics'. Which kind of removes the easiest way to have an alternate form for the small Ghe, doesn't it? :-)

Between that and the fact that there is currently a Russian localization of Windows but not a Macedonian one, it sort of makes sense that the default form in the UI font of much of Vista and Office 2007 would follow the Russian glyph preference....

It does mean that the issue Chris Pirillo has pointed out here about the inconsistency of application of the new UI font (discussed previously here) might be a bit more worrying for Vista and Office 2007, since between MS Sans Serif, Tahoma, Segoe UI, and Microsoft Sans Serif, only Segoe UI is getting it right. This might make the Russian localization of Windows a bit more challenging with this inconistency of font being used, huh?

Luckily the uppercase form (U+0403) does not have this difference, so at worst it will just like we capitalize like morons in Russian in those places where the UI font is inconsistent? :-)


This post brought to you by ѓ (U+0453, a.k.a. Italicized CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER GJE)

# Rosyna on Sunday, August 06, 2006 5:19 PM:

What is a program manger?

Also, synthetic font styles are evil.  Kind of related to what you said, but not really.

# Srgjan Srepfler on Sunday, August 06, 2006 6:00 PM:

I as a native macedonian speaker can only say that using these different letters in printed italic is a small mistery to me as well. I suppose it's related to the handwritten form where for instance the gje (or even the normal ghe) is more written as the greek tau which is more similar to gamma, with the small difference that the horizontal line above is straight, a bit above and not wavy.
A small mystery as well is the t that in italic looks as a latin m (I hate this as I'm bilingual and it knocks my OCR system in tilt ;). And to add to this if you take the latin m and turnit upside down you get the sha, but the cherry on top is that both t and sha are written differently in handwritten form with the t written with a horizontal line on top and the sha having a horizontal line below (but not obligatory, it's to distinguish more easily between sha and i ). Hope it was interesting for people that like letters and I'd have a rant about the d as well :).
Michel did you get my private message on the issue of accented letters on the macedonian layout?

# Michael S. Kaplan on Sunday, August 06, 2006 8:02 PM:

Hi Rosyna -- maybe I'll blog about that soon.

Oh never mind, Steve Sinofsky already did. :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on Sunday, August 06, 2006 8:05 PM:

Hello Srgjan,

I did get it, and I actually was planning on blogging about it sometime soon. :-)

# Rosyna on Sunday, August 06, 2006 8:55 PM:

So a program manger is a trough that program managers eat from?

# Michael S. Kaplan on Sunday, August 06, 2006 9:03 PM:

Just a typo, Rosyna. Fixed now!

# Alan McFarlane on Monday, August 07, 2006 3:07 AM:

What about "Iraq"?  But, only in the pronounciation sense!  It jars us brits when we hear an american say EYE-raq.  Surely that's wrong, no-one else to our (I speak for every person in Britain, nay europe!) knowledge pronounces it that way... :-)


# Dean Harding on Monday, August 07, 2006 9:37 PM:

> It jars us brits when we hear an american say EYE-raq.

Actually, they pronouce it more like "EYE-rack" which sounds funny to an Australian ear as well. We pronounce it more like "ih-rAAq" with the "ih" as in "ih-talian" and the "rAAk" rhymes with "ark" (like the one built by Noah.)

# DmitryKo on Tuesday, August 08, 2006 4:25 AM:

I din't know why did you keep referencing Russian alphabet - it doesn't have this 'ghe' letter... 'BELOrussian' does have it, but it thre's no 'inverse s' in an italicized form AFAIK...

# RubenP on Tuesday, August 08, 2006 5:57 PM:

Incidentally, most languages I know of don't distinguish between italic and cursive. In Dutch it's just 'cursief' (and I believe the Germans stick to Kursiv). Slanted/oblique is not very common. I believe you should use 'schuinschrift' (skewed writing), but I've never actually heard people refer to 'Arial/Helvetica schuinschrift'. True italics always looked better to me, even for sans serif typefaces. Glad Segoe 'borrowed' that idea from Frutiger Neue rather than Frutiger.

And ditto on the synthetic obliques. I mean, why does Verdana have a real oblique, but Tahoma doesn't. It's the same bloody typeface!

Besides, there's a bug with the LATIN SMALL LETTER A in Segoe UI Italic as well ;-)

# Si on Tuesday, August 08, 2006 6:33 PM:

>I mean, why does Verdana have a real oblique, but Tahoma doesn't

Tahoma was created for UI, and our traditionally our UI doesn't use italics (some languages we localize into don’t really have an Italic concept). However, the point is well taken, as we can't control where a font gets used we decided to include Italics (true ones) in Segoe UI, based on the amount of fake Tahoma Italic we’ve seen over the years on the web and elsewhere.    

As for Frutiger Next Italics. Linotype obviously lifted that idea straight from Myriad as a way of getting back at Adobe. ;-)

Michael, if you’re interested in Italics a post on Meiryo Italics would be a good one.  

# Srgjan Srepfler on Wednesday, August 09, 2006 10:35 PM:

"Between that and the fact that there is currently a Russian localization of Windows but not a Macedonian one".
Although this is probably true I can't help to remember that around 2005 the Macedonian goverment struck a deal with MS around software. I believe some sort of localization effort was undertaken by MS as a part of the deal (or it's local subsidiary) but I'm not sure as I don't live in Macedonia for quite some time. I thought just to drop a note on the geo-politics in relation to the C9 interview. Some people criticyzed the goverment on that move and the trend today is that many public administrations try to move to the OS camp but my point of view it was the right choice to be made at the time.
Anyhow, we live in a day and age of choice and interoperability so I guess we just need to wait and see how things evolve.

# Alan McFarlane on Thursday, August 10, 2006 5:27 PM:

Oh, I'd forgotten I'd written that.  It was early morning (relatively).  Not /exactly/ on topic, it obviously bugs me... :-)

referenced by

2011/06/20 There's a ™ joke in here somewhere, I just don't know what is (aka And if a 't' turned out to be 'm'…)

2011/05/26 To True Boldly Go Where No Font...(yada yada yada)

2008/08/16 Optimus: from science fiction to fiction to frustration to geek porn, in just 24 months

2007/10/18 If it seems different, that may not be out of character

2007/08/27 Small case is not just tinier capitals; italics are not merely slanted letters

2006/09/14 Not just uppercasing or italicizing; bolding can cause problems too!

2006/08/08 When the font is the boss of you

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