Friday, November 21, 2014

Why Latin is sometimes called Greek, and why Latin is important to graphic designers and writers of English

While you are experimenting with different possible layouts for book pages or covers (or ads, catalogs, brochures or packages), it’s good to have real words to play with, even if  the text that will ultimately be used doesn't exist yet. Temporary text will help you to select type faces and size, page margins, headers and other "style" items.

To make a real-looking "dummy" cover or interior page, copy and paste-in what’s known as Greek text or Greeking (although it’s really semi-sensible Latin). Do a web search for “lorem ipsum” or go to and copy and paste.

Here’s what it looks like: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla dapibus elementum dui sit amet hendrerit. Fusce varius odio at nisi rhoncus ut tempor justo imperdiet. Mauris neque turpis, fringilla quis consequat scelerisque, egestas eu felis. Pellentesque ut turpis non metus pellentesque tempus a at erat. Praesent id libero ac ligula ultrices facilisis eu id est. Integer vel quam enim. Phasellus luctus porttitor augue, eget aliquet velit consequat quis. Nam massa lectus, accumsan sed iaculis id, sollicitudin sit amet odio. Duis id sem eu orci rhoncus semper. Mauris tortor enim, faucibus vitae commodo ac, lacinia quis libero.

  • In addition to its temporary stand-in function, Lorem Ipsum makes it easier to judge a graphic design because, unless they understand Latin, viewers won’t be distracted by reading the content. I had two years of Latin in high school and am a language "buff," so I get distracted. Maybe the book designers in Vatican City use Vietnamese text so they don't get distracted. I have no idea what Greek designers call "Greeking."

Former-Governator Ah-Nold starred in a shitty satan movie that used inverted Hebrew text intended to look diabolical. It didn't fool me.

Here's an important Little Latin Lesson:

Two short abbreviations for Latin phrases are often confused by people writing English. I.e. stands for id est and means approximately “that is.” E.g. stands for exempli gratia, and means approximately “for example.”

Don’t italicize them, but do put a comma after the final period. Here’s a mnemonic device (memory aid):
  • I.e., which starts with I means “In other words,”
  • E.g., which starts with e, means “for Example.”
  • Or, you could think that i.e. means “in effect” and that e.g. means “example given.”
Of course, those of us who studied Latin, don’t need mnemonic devices. Optima dies prima fugit. Cave canem. Caveat emptor. Nos morituri te salutamus. Sic transit gloria mundi. SPQR. INRI. Alter ego. E pluribus unum. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Persona non grata. Ave Caesar. Corpus delecti. Corpus Christi. Bona fide. Carpe diem. Status quo. Bogus. Bonus. Status. Flatus. Doofus (just kidding). Curiculum Vitae. Alumnus. Cannabis. Vagina. Roma. Dictum. Modus operandi. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et Cetera.

Sic is the Latin word for “thus.” It’s used to indicate that the preceding error or unusual wording or punctuation was in the source, and not copied incorrectly. The word should be italicized and within square brackets like this: [sic]. “Sic transit gloria mundi” has nothing to do with ailing trains or buses. Look it up.

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Top photo shows statue of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, who said, “Et tu, Brute?” (“And you too, Brutus?”) when his buddy Brutus stabbed him. Those words were supposedly Caesar’s last words, on the Ides of March (March 15th) in 44 BCE. March 15th was the original income tax day in the United States.

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