Language ambiguity and unintended irony

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/10/03, original URI:

In Perhaps we can call them live keys? :-) earlier today, there was an interesting bit of ambiguity I did not mention but probably should have.

Looking at the art again:

 Whether you look at as

I wish the English language had more interesting characters.


I wîsh the Énġlišh långuãge hađ mørē iñteŕêßţing çharäčtèrş.

 or even if you aded the color, there are still lots of ways to read/interpret the sentence.

One could interpret it with the emphasis kind of like this:

I wîsh the Énġlišh långuãge hađ mørē iñteŕêßţing çharäčtèrş.

which is to imply that there are some interesting characters now but the problem is just with the quantity.

Or alternately one could instead interpret it kind of this other way:

I wîsh the Énġlišh långuãge hađ mørē iñteŕêßţing çharäčtèrş.

Now if you looked only at Michael Ciancio's site and the text he had associated with the art ("Basically this was a conclusion I came to at the end of my one-year stay in Europe.") then you could in theory read it either way, but given the (for the most part) real lack of any diacritics on letters used in English other the the occasional loan word, and even there it is usually considered optional, the second interpretation seems more likely even without the lack of typographical hints to that effect.

However, if you look at the letters chosen, there is an interesting alternate interpretation, one that adds even perhaps a bit of irony to the statement!

Let's look at them as code points and letters:

0049 0020 0077 00ee 0073 0068

0074 0068 0065 0020 00c9 006e 0121 006c 0069 0161 0068

006c 00e5 006e 0067 0075 00e3 0067 0065

0068 0061 0111 0020 006d 00f8 0072 0113

0069 00f1 0074 0065 0155 00ea 00df 0163 0069 006e 0067

00e7 0068 0061 0072 00e4 010d 0074 00e8 0072 015f 002e

The first thing you might notice is that there is not a single letter that is outside of Basic Latin, Latin-1 Supplement, and a precious few from Latin Extended-A.

Well, that was the first thing I noticed, at least.

I suspect that I might be cooler as a person had I not realized this before I looked at the actual code points. :-)

Perhaps this is meant to be another level of meaning to the sentence? You know, like in contrast to all of the characters that might randomly show up as sponsors on blogs here, the "interesting" characters are really only interesting at the very first level of interestingosity, with a whole bunch of other Lain Extension range characters and lookalike characters from other scripts not being used or even considered.

You know, a meta-comment on how even the word "interesting" doesn't get much of a workout, these days!

Though in truth I know that is probably not it.

If you take Andrew West's comment to the blog, which talks bout the forensic typography examination to identify the font:

It's Gill Sans of some sort. Of course English used to have lots of interesting letters, such as thorn þ, eth ð, wynn ƿ, yogh ȝ, ash æ, long s ſ, r rotunda ꝛ, etc.

And then you look at a copy of Gil Sans in Character Map:

It is clear that the most likely reason for the limited range of potential "interesting" character is the limited range of characters in the font used.

Ah well, I guess the only real irony is the unintended one -- how the font choice so sharply limits the pool of interesting characters such that the example cannot show most of them....

This blog brought to you by(U+2c61, aka LATIN SMALL LETTER L WITH DOUBLE BAR, a charcter in the Latin Extended-C block)

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