Donkey Kong? No, it is just the Meiryō brothers!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/02/08 03:01 -05:00, original URI:

So muka posted the following in the Suggestion Box:

Not really a topic. Just expressing some frustration.

I am a little disappointed about the name of a Vista font. Specifically, "Meiryo". I would have expected the English spelling "Meiryō" with a macron over the o to mark the long vowel.

However, that is far from the end of it. The Japanese localization calls this font メイリオ (romanization: meirio). I would have expected "明瞭" (romanization: meiryō).

Here are some references:メイリオ

(Yes, I fully read the reasoning given for this choice. I do not agree with it.)

Wrong in English and wrong in Japanese. At you're consistent.

Great font, but it's going to drive me nuts using it...

Tōkyō, Japan

Of course, if it doesn't become a topic it just gets deleted. So now it will be a topic.

I'm not sure about which justification is referred to, but with very few exceptions, I was unable to find any of the following:

Now what this means is that a non-Unicode application is not going to run into the unfortunate problem of a font name that shows question marks, or even worse a font that has different names depending on whether an application supports Unicode or not. And that is a good thing, in my opinion.

An additional problem with the use of the macron or the circumflex is that code page 932 does not have the Latin characters bearing these diacritics in the code page (not even with a best fit mapping to the letter without the diacritic), meaning there are all kinds of additional lossy scenarios using standard Romanji forms in non-Unicode applications....

There may be other reasons for this apparent pattern that has guided font naming over these last several years, if there are then perhaps some of the Typography folks will share those reasons. ;-)


This post brought to you by ˉ (U+02c9, a.k.a. MODIFIER LETTER MACRON)

# muka on 8 Feb 2007 3:45 AM:

Thanks for the post.

That is an acceptable explanation for why it is spelled "Meiryo" in English. However, the real disappointment is in the Japanese localization. To sum it up: English "Meiryo" is borrowed from the Japanese word 明瞭 (meiryō). Then Japanese borrows English "Meiryo" which becomes メイリオ (meirio). I speak Japanese and know the word 明瞭, but without reading this post I would not have known what メイリオ was.

Look at the Mincho family of fonts. On my Japanese system these are called 明朝 (Minchō). Meiryo should have been handled in a similar manner.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 8 Feb 2007 5:58 AM:

There are 295mb of fonts in Vista, and only one has a meaningful name, IMHO. :-)

# hito on 8 Feb 2007 9:36 AM:

I've heard a rumor that its name is meiryo because people who has not native japanese tongue can't pronounce it correctly.

I don't it is truth or not.

# Bruce Rusk on 8 Feb 2007 10:22 AM:

Lots of CJK fonts have English names that do not match their locale-specific names (SimSun, the standard font for Simplified

Chinese, comes to mind). The reason for choosing メイリオ as the Japanese name may have been to match the English one, but this is not a general policy and certainly not an optimal choice in this instance. It's especially glaring because it's in katakana, which is most often used to transcribe foreign words, and not in kanji or hiragana.

Also, the Japanese Wikipedia page gives a different etymology (rough translation below):


The name メイリオ derives from 明瞭 [bright and clear]. It was so named because it appears extremely clear both onscreen and in print. The reasons it is called メイリオ and not メイリョウ [Meiryō] are that it sounds exotic and that it is one character shorter. It may also be the fault of Western developers hearing Meiryō as Meiryo (just as Tōkyō becomes Tokyo).

# Michael S. Kaplan on 8 Feb 2007 12:01 PM:

Like I always say, when in doubt blame the Western developers!

# Mike on 8 Feb 2007 1:20 PM:

I've been reading & writing (American) English all my life and I've never heard of a macron.

To my mind common usage of American English does not put extra squiggles over, under, around, through, etc letters.  That sort of thing is for cheese-eating surrender monkies sipping lattes in a "café" somewhere.  On a less sarcastic note, I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of American English speakers were just confused by having it.

# Rosyna on 8 Feb 2007 1:52 PM:

It's just as correct as saying Tokyo or somehow saying Tokyo is an anagram of Kyoto (that one pissed me off when I saw the "joke" on Futurama). And why is no one saying it should have been spelt Meiryou?

And it seems quite comment for the Japanese to turn japanese words into odd Katakana. I saw some of this on their various cell phone ads. And yes, I have a stuffed DoCoMo mascot keychain.

# Jason Truesdell on 8 Feb 2007 2:22 PM:

The Japanese rendering is stranger than the English one. There's no particular reason to complain about the English rendering, as it's following popular convention, rather than official romaji conventions or Japanology-focused academic writing standards.

For academic writing, the macron is important to reduce ambiguity. However, we don't write Oosaka (Osaka) or Toukyou (Tokyo) or toufu (tofu) very often in roman characters, and we usually don't use the equivalent macron even in publications with careful typography.

MS Mincho is also "missing" the macron for Minchou. Oh well... I just moved on.

By the way, didn't the older Macs have a font called Osaka for Japanese? Does anyone complain about the missing macron? It's certainly a pre-Unicode era font.

# ReallyEvilCanine on 11 Feb 2007 3:17 AM:

Jason beat me to it, and used every single one of my examples in the process! Outside of academia or technically precise usage, English avoids diacritical marks for reasons of both simplification and technical limitation. Try and find the word "naïve" spelled with the diaeresis. Even though the Latin "i"+diaeresis exists in codepage 1252, it's so rarely seen that it's fallen out of usage, as has "rôle".

The macron has a specific meaning in English: it describes the vowel as being long, but not double-long as is the case when referring to romanised Japanese. It wouldn't be understood as such in English. The macron isn't available in 1252 and it wasn't available in typesetting through into the '90s unless you were willing to hand a wad of cash over to CompuGraphic, Mergenthaler or Linotype. And for what? To placate some foreigners and confuse your own readers at the same time?

For general Japanese usage in an English-speaking region, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. The macron is confusing to English-speakers, is more or less unavailable (had to use drawing tools to insert it into Word 6 docs), and the alternatives of doubling the vowel or using the preferred "+u" romanised spelling taught in Japanese classes changes the expected pronunciation to the reader who already probably uses three syllables to pronounce the capital of Japan.

The missing macron may be wrong to Japanese readers, but it's both "correct" and consistent for English usage.

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