What to do if she sees right through you

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/01/30 05:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/01/30/1556199.aspx

It is an old story.

You have a word.

A word like, for example, transparency.

And it has a connotation that is somewhere between neutral (when used objectively, e.g. describing a window surface) and negative (when used subjectively, e.g. a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend's assessment of a guy).

Then suddenly it becomes a big keyword, picked up to describe how great a company is if you know more about its plans.

So now it is great that e.g. Microsoft is so transparent about things in so many of its blogs, it is bad that e.g. Google isn't in its own blogs. Suddenly it is how one gets the proverbial girl instead of causes her to dump you.

(Not to say that this is why anyone ever dumped me. They always had good reasons, you can ask them. They just had different one than this!)

But A. Skrobov (the one who wanted to know what ASMO stands for) asked over the weekend and again yesterday about:

the other question that I asked over the weekend, and the one which seems to have vanished tracelessly, was about the word "transparent" in relation to the Arabic font and codepage names. What does that word really mean, as in "Arabic Transparent" font, and in "transparent ASMO" codepage?

I asked a lot of people if they knew. Scooting around the building while waiting for builds to complete, I am sure people wondered where I was going to, moving from one person to the next.

Everyone knew it was for a blog post. I guess my own motives are pretty transparent these days, huh? :-)

Anyway, some people had brilliant guesses.

Some people had silly guesses.

Some people didn't have a freaking clue.

And at least a few people had guesses that were frankly kind of dumb (but there are only dumb guesses, there are no dumb people!).

But everyone knew someone else who would know the answer even though they did not know for sure. Thus Cathy Wissink was sure John McConnell would know this factoid. And Carolyn Parsons was sure Ali Basit would know. And so on.

Finally, Judy Safran-Aasen and Simon Daniels were pretty sure Paul Nelson would know.

He sort of did! According to Paul:

This is ancient history, but here it goes.

Back in the days of Windows 3.1 (and the low resolution world) there was a problem when we made the Arabic fonts. They appeared too small. (problem sound familiar with complex scripts today?)

Glyph Systems (actually Diane Collier did the work) was asked to scale up the size of the base letters for Arabic and Hebrew fonts so they would be more readable. Because the diacritic marks are not commonly used in daily text this was not too much of a problem as there is a low occurrence of clipping of the combining marks.

The source of the outlines is the Monotype outlines for Simplified Arabic.

Though he did not know about the word transparent itself:

Transparent was the name given to the version of the font. Why? Probably some arbitrary choice based on some well thought out reason. There is nothing transparent about the font. It is just the name given.

Well, we have enough clues now, I think. Given that the font's intended purpose was to become more readable on those very low-resolution screens, transparent s a synonym of apparent, obvious, visible, understandable, and so on makes a lot of sense.

The code page coverage is not 100% analogous to the font's coverage, but perhaps it was back in the days of the original font.

Of course the Arabic Transparent font was dropped in Vista, and it is amusing to guess that this due to the Typography team not wanting to be using such a "buzzword" in a font name (though the real reason would be more along the lines that twenty years later the needs of Arabic typography are really not the same and the font was adding much and was actually missing a lot of the important shaping behavior seen in other fonts).

I think It is ironic and amusing that we "dumped" the font that was "transparent", given the usual professional love of the word (especially these days, where it has become a buzzword like innovation) and the sometimes negative personal connotation....

Maybe I just need to be thankful that no one is going dump me for my transparent motives vis-a-vis the blog? :-)


This post brought to you by ش (U+0634, a.k.a. ARABIC LETTER SHEEN)

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