Falling back shouldn't mean falling over (though perhaps it does, a bit)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/12/14 07:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/12/14/10104459.aspx

So it was just the other day, in It's a LIP that won't cost you an arm[enia] and a leg!, that regular reader Random832 commented:

Why is U+0580 ARMENIAN SMALL LETTER REH in Verdana and the rest of the characters are in Sylfaen? It seems that Verdana contains exactly two Armenian letters [the other being U+0564 DA]; that's very odd.

It looks like the currency symbol for Armenian (Armenia) is U+0564 U+0580 U+002E, which may explain it, but it still seems like a bizarre decision to support only part of a script.

And indeed, things are exactly that way:


And they are just two lone Armenian characters.

They are in there for no other purpose, simply to cover the currency symbol!

Of course over in Sylfaen, the font that has all the Armenian characters, both of these letters can be found:


Weird, huh?

Of course, when something is in Armenian people wonder whether it is done for Georgian.

But we are covered there:

That Latin script text (Lari) is in Verdana, obviously.

Though to be honest the currency support for Georgian seems weird to me anyway, given the exchange rate of Lari, but that can be a topic for another day, perhaps. Today is for Armenian....

Now at first I felt the same as Random832 did -- just a few random letters, to support the currency symbol? really?

I mean, when you think about SQL Server's support for currency symbols (described in blogs of mine like Show me the [small]money!), it only takes some of the explicit currency signs that exist in Unicode -- it does not detect the text strings used in locales like Armenian's as currency signs.

And yet, fonts like Verdana do a job on supporting the currency signs and symbols of many different locales, like a whole bunch in the currency symbols block:

But does this really help anything in the long run?

I mean, do we really expect there to be a common case where one is on a machine without Sylfaen where they will be looking at Armenian (and many other) currency values but no Armenian text and information?

It just seems like a really contrived scenario.

Though I suppose on a site with lots of currency transactions it would save one from having to load up lotsof extra fonts.

Maybe it helps someone's performance just a little bit....

Okay, I can almost talk myself into it, see?

Then, I try one more thing: I look at the letters in Verdana on the left vs. in Sylfaen on the right, side by side, at various sizes:


These letters in Verdana are much more like the style of the other characters in Verdana -- and not like the letters in Sylfaen!

So on a web page that requests text be in Verdana, these two letters will come from Verdana and then when other letters are requested, they will be grabbed from Sylfaen via Uniscribe.

And you will have one of those weird font mismatch situations.

For two letters. Two Letters. But no others. The metrics and the style and the look, all are different....

Okay, I am back where I started -- these letters in Verdana are not such a great idea.

In fact, suddenly many of these currency symbols in fonts like Verdana seem like not such a great idea, given the massively different styles of some of the language specific fonts....

That same type of problem I discussed in The utility of a feature like font fallback in Uniscribe can often be somewhat obviated by its design flaw, given a whole new dimension.

And suddenly fonts are not falling back so much as falloing over. Again....

John Cowan on 14 Dec 2010 8:25 AM:

A site with lots of currencies would use AMD anyhow.

Miguel Sousa on 14 Dec 2010 1:02 PM:

The other problem is that the serifs on the letters' descenders really don't belong in a sans-serif design such as Verdana. Have a look at Paratype's Noah (www.paratype.com/.../Noah.htm) and Pragmatica (www.paratype.com/.../Pragmatica-Armenian.htm)

Michael S. Kaplan on 14 Dec 2010 2:23 PM:

Notice how they tried to minimize them in their take on the letters to try to solve that problem. :-)

Miguel Sousa on 15 Dec 2010 12:19 PM:

You must be talking about a different thing because the wrong serifs are not small or minimized at all.

Michael S. Kaplan on 15 Dec 2010 1:28 PM:

I am pointing out they rounded the serifs to try an match the font's other glyphs. Not 100%, but better than nothing if you wanted the same style....

Random832 on 15 Dec 2010 7:19 PM:

Yet Tahoma [which is Verdana's near-identical cousin in many glyphs present in both] doesn't have the serifs - which raises the question of just where the letterforms in Verdana came from... along with why the currencies that use Arabic letters or half a dozen Indic scripts aren't covered. Tahoma, of course, has full Arabic coverage [even if it is a crap cartoon font], along with full Armenian coverage.

Michael S. Kaplan on 15 Dec 2010 11:06 PM:

There ends up being some criticism for changing the look and feel of currency signs/symbols, which puts these currency symbols based entirely on letters in a very weird place....

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