Monday, 8 October 2007

Les esperluettes

Well, it’s amazing how quickly one can develop a reputation these days. (Although I seem to remember my mother warning me about that when I was about 14 and was trying to sneak out to a disco in clothes she deemed ‘unsuitable’ – so perhaps it isn’t that new a phenomenon!)

Happily, my new-found reputation is a fairly harmless one (so far), and it stems from the tenor of my blog postings. Walking back from the marshes on Saturday evening, I met a fellow dog-walker, with whom (as one does) I exchanged a smile and a nod and then, just as he’d passed, he suddenly said, ‘oh, I know you! You’re . . . that woman off the internet who’s obsessed with typefaces!’. Er, yes, I suppose I am . . .



And then there are the kind people who send me links to sites of interest. Last week I received an especially welcome one from one of my Northern Correspondents, alerting me to the unlikely feast of ampersands (a subject dear to my heart) on this shopping centre’s website, from which I have nicked some of the illustrations for this posting (but all in the interests of advertising, so I’m sure that’s OK, isn’t it? – please visit Gyle Shopping Centre straight away and tell them I sent you, and then I shan’t feel so bad!).


Another link that’s come my way is the one below, which takes you to a video of the making of this amazing balloon installation by Conor Nolan and David Wall – a couple of designers working and living in Dublin.

Watch the video (takes a little while to load, so be patient – it’s worth it).

I have some old wooden letterpress ampersands standing around the place – I love the feel of them as well as their appearance, but I’m also rather taken by the decorative possibilities of these plastic ampersands.




On a sadder note, the illuminated rotating ampersand in this outdoor sculpture in Seattle is part of the phrase 'Love & Loss'. You can see a schematic version of it, which shows the elements - tables, pathways and a painted tree - more clearly, here.



Here’s an amusing exercise on an ampersandish theme - part of the typophile.com forum, which is well worth delving into and also brings this page of discussion and links on the subject. From which you will see that my own ‘obsession’ with typography in general and ampersands in particular is a very mild case indeed. In fact I’m beginning to feel almost normal.


And so to an ampersand poem. It's just a little thing, but it's undeniably true. I emailed the poet, Patrick Winstanley, to ask whether I could reproduce it in full here, but I haven’t heard back from him, so you’ll have to click here instead.


I wonder what filling an ampersand chocolate would have inside. Something really delicious and bittersweet, I suspect. Hmmm. Food for thought . . .

And finally, I just discovered the absolutely gorgeous word L'esperluette (O-level French vocab didn’t extend to such things – or, if it did, I’d forgotten). So much more mellifluous than ‘ampersand’, isn’t it?

I'm going to go away and practise saying it now. Which will enhance my reputation no end ('that woman off the internet who mumbles to herself in French').

3 comments:

60goingon16 said...

What a delightful post. I loved working with typographers, even went out with one for years and years, although that's probably carrying things too far! (But I did love his stories of famous authors.) These days everything I write or edit is sent off at the touch of a key and typographers are an endangered species.

Meanwhile, I've just discovered, courtesy of the Arvon Blog, that the new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has disensed with hyphens. As Arvon rightly points out, dispensing with hyphens can lead to confusion; 'twenty-odd people' is a long way in meaning from 'twenty odd people'. There'll be tears by bedtime . . .

PS The latest Muddy Island photos were as splendid as ever.

Juliet said...

Hi and thanks for nice comments, but . . . but . . . but . . . what is going on with Oxford and hyphens. Can this possibly be true? I don't belieeeeeve it (as grumpy old persons everywhere are wont to exclaim)! I shall have to investigate later tonight and it may be necessary to have a GIANT RANT!!! Or alternatively a long lie-down with a some brandy and a large box of les esperluettes au chocolat (if I only knew where to lay my hands on some) . . .

Juliet said...

Oh great. And there's me leaving out a crucial question mark in my reply above!