Friday, June 15, 2012

What's Roman? What's Gothic?

The field of typography, which is vital to much human communication, has a communication problem: some terms have multiple meanings.
  • “Roman” may mean a typeface with serifs. Times New Roman is a “new” roman typeface designed for the Times newspaper in London and first used in 1932.
  • “Roman” may also be used to mean type that is vertical, as opposed to slanted “oblique” or “italic” fonts.
  • “Gothic” may mean an ornate typeface like Waters Gothic.
  • “Gothic” may also mean a simple, sans serif face like Century Gothic. 
By one standard, both of these Gothic typefaces are also roman. By the other standard, only Waters is roman.
The “Roman” in “Times New Roman” is part of a proper noun and should be uppercased, but when “roman” is used as a description for a kind of typeface, it is lowercased. "Roman numeral" usually gets a uppercase "R" because it refers to the Roman Empire. However, "french fries" and "danish pastry" are not uppercased. Maybe the fierce Romans demand more respect than Danes or French folks. There's no logic here, so don't worry about it.

(Today's post is derived from my upcoming No More Ugly Books!)

Photo of Roman Centurion is from Photo of woman with large balloons is from Thanks very much to both. Yes, I know that she's Goth, not Gothic, but it's a great photo.

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