How to miss the point through translation (and on italicizing, or not)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/09/20 16:31 -04:00, original URI:

It was a little more than two years ago in When the font is the boss of you that I talked about how the ClearType font Meiryo took the battle between people who try to italicize Japanese text and people who think that this makes Japanese really really ugly, and took steps to make it no longer a problem.

Through the relatively simple trick of providing an italic version of font which does not slant the Kana or Kanji in it (in a .TTC so that glyphs could be shared with the non-italicized version), good Japanese typography could be safeguarded, and protected from those who seek to tilt everything over a few degrees even if this generally not considered to be a good idea.

But not everyone feels the same way about this feature.

First of all, there are various testers who throughout the Vista and Office 12 noticed that selecting text un Word and hitting CTRL+I did not seem to italicize everything.

Second there were some external folks on the betas who reported the same problem.

Generally the most interesting trait shared by the people reporting this as a bug were not Japanese. so for them it was more reporting the difference in behavior than anything else.

The remaining categor of reports, however, come from actual Japanese users, who tend to have the self-discipline to not italicize indiscriminately though who have decided that for some specific purposes italics can be just dandy for Japanese.

Thus as reported in blogs like メイリオ (Meiryo) の斜体, this is not necessarily the most appreciated of all possible designs.

And then in later sites like メイリオフォントで斜体を表示 (hat tip to Slahcolon /: 何かとエラーばかり起こしているプログラム屋の日常) the directions for how to get one's slanted Japanese back while using this new font have been provided.

I can't really condone or even recommend the process as it does involve breaking the font apart, in fact if you really prefer italics then even the above article points out that MS Gothic is perhaps a better choice.

Though it does close on a more philosophical note on the nature of Italicization:


上でイタリック(斜体)という表記がありますが、細かくいうと斜体には2つの書体があり、文字を単純に斜めにしたものをオブリーク体と、筆記体を元にした右に傾いた文字をイタリック体と呼びます。イタリック体 - Wikipediaあたりに2つの書体が載っているので、これを見てみるとわかりやすいかもしれません。


メイリオでひらがななどの斜体、正確にいえばイタリック体を表示しないのは、日本語の書体にイタリック体がないからだそうです。斜体を表示できないようにするのなら、Internet Explorerでウェブページを表示する際に、強調のために<em>と</em>で囲った部分(普通、イタリックで表示されます)の日本語の表示を何とかしろよと、少し思ってしまいます。

Of course you have to know Japanese to understand what Nakayama-san is saying here, or at least look at an online translation site. :-)

Comparing the translations from Google and Yahoo (SysTran) and WorldLingo was also kind of amusing. Google's in particular, which takes "上でイタリック(斜体)" as "On italics (italics)" and leaves out some obviously important distinction out that was really the whole point of the text. Not that either Yahoo or WorldLingo, which both claim -- "At on italic (non-commutative field)" -- provide much more insight here for non-Japanese folk, whuch made me sad to see the whole point of the conclusion kind of disappear via the process of translation. :-(

It actually kind of reminded me of being handed the same problem given to Slovenians in the previously discussed Does bear shit in woods^H^H^H^H^HSlovenia?, only this time I could directly feel the frustration of seeing two words, believing they have different meaning, and not necessarily knowing what the two meanings are to make them different!

This blog brought to you by(U+4e0a, aka a CJK Unified Ideograph)

Carl on 21 Sep 2008 8:33 PM:

Quickie translation (I don't stand by this as being correct!):

Supplemental: The Difference Between Inclined Writing [Shatai] and Italics

Above, there's the phrase "italics" (inclined writing [shatai]), but if you examine the issue closely, there are two kinds of writing within the group of inclined writing [shatai]. Simply tilting the letters is called "oblique," but handwriting that was originally slanted to the right is called "italic." On the Wikipedia page about italics there are two samples, so if you look at that, you should be able to see the difference.

Italics were originally for alphabetical handwriting, and at that time italics did not exist for Japanese. As a result, when a Japanese font needs to be displayed in italics, this can be faked using an oblique. Because of this, italics and shatai are confused together, but properly speaking, there are differences. Well, it's like how people confuse "websites" and "homepages." There are a lot of examples like this, and IMHO, if you get hung up on it, you'll just wear yourself out.

In Meiro, for hiragana etc. the inclined writing [shatai] option doesn't display as an italic, apparently since in Japanese there are no italics. Since it can't display inclined writing [shatai], when you view a website with Internet Explorer, the portions surrounded by [em] and [/em] for emphasis (which is normally displayed in italics) end up doing nothing when viewed in Japanese, unfortunately.

˙ on 22 Sep 2008 3:47 AM:

[em] and [/em] should be obeyed.  The way to obey is to put a dot above each character.

Italics are useful for playing with fonts, sort of like using Comic Sans to play with fonts in English.  You wouldn't use them in business reports.

Eyedunno on 27 Nov 2008 2:16 PM:

I'll just offer a minor correction to Carl's translation:

「文字を単純に斜めにしたものをオブリーク体と、筆記体を元にした右に傾いた文字をイタリック体と呼びます。」 is better rendered as "Writing that is simply tilted is called 'oblique', while writing that leans to the right and is based on cursive writing is called 'italic'."

Both of the linked blogs seem to be making the point (though the second blog doesn't dwell on it much) that removing italic (or oblique, or whatever) text altogether from Japanese and replacing it with nothing was not the greatest approach.

And I didn't see where that article said that Gothic is a better choice for italicization.  What it says is that MeiryoKeGothic (a patch for Meiryo) may be a better option, as you don't have to hack the font yourself to get italic support, plus MeiryoKeGothic makes Meiryo usable on sites specifically designed for MS Gothic (and there are a lot of these, with the most notable thing being ASCII art on 2ch).

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