I was reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles the other day when at one point, a character described the eponymous heroine as “a crummy girl.” As with many of Hardy’s novels, which are full of 19th-century English West-Country dialect, there was an explanatory note. I was going to pass over it, as there are many such notes, and I don’t want to interrupt my reading flow by stopping for each one. Plus, the meaning was pretty clear from the context: it obviously meant attractive.
Yes, it’s Hallowe’en again! Time to have a look at an appropriately spooky word. But first, a challenge:
Kerning refers to the process of adjusting the space between letters in typesetting and graphic design.
The word originally comes from the French carne, meaning projecting angle or quill of a pen. In the days of manual typesetting, letters were placed on individual metal blocks known as glyphs. If a letter overlapped the following letter (e.g. a capital T before a capital A), the overlapping parts (the bars of the T), would protrude over the edge of the glyph, and these exposed parts of the letter were known as kerns.
You might not think kerning is important, especially because most digital text is automatically kerned for your pleasure. Here’s a nice example from Wikipedia of the benefits of kerning:
Well, I know I said I’d write something about grammar or etymology, but then, how can one turn down the Sunshine Blogger Award? And there are plenty of more days ahead in which to indulge myself in the riches of English, so why not have a little break, eh, to enjoy a little sunshine? I probably won’t have to use so many italics on this one, and formatting all of those can be tiring.
So, I have to say a big thank you to Parvathy Sarat for her nomination. It’s an honour, and I strongly recommend you check out her blog, Trust Me, You’re Alive. How could you resist such a fascinating variety of topics as written by a scribbler, dancer, dog-lover, and an overthinker? Certainly three of those four describe me (I’ll let you decide which), so obviously her posts are great reading.
Let’s do this then.
At the moment, I’m reading the novel Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. (I’m aware that this is the second post in a row about what I’m reading: I do like to read, and I feel there’s a future post about a link between English teaching and reading) Yesterday, I was struck by the following passage (context: the book was published in 1988, and the narrator is writing about his first experience using a word processor, referred to as he/him):