Rags of Light

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Accents: phones take the lead.

I enjoyed this essay, In the future, will the English language be full of accented characters?, on the slow but steady growth of accents and extended character sets in English. Typewriters and metal type fonts used to mean that we were limited to a small set of characters that a vendor thought we needed. Now Unicode puts a huge set at our disposal on laptops and phones.

I use a few accented characters regularly, especially the diaresis, AKA the umlaut, the pair of dots over a letter that can serve a couple of purposes, or no clear purpose at all, as in the case of inventions like Blue Öyster Cult or Häagen-Dazs. When I type the name of Saint Païsios (which I do surprisingly often), I want that diaresis: it tells people that the name is pronounced Pie-EE-see-ose, not PAY-see-ose, as it would be if left naked.

Oddly, phone keyboards far outshine desktop keyboards in accent-friendliness: on my phone I can long-press a character and be presented with a nice mini-menu of accented variations. It’s great. Why doesn’t my desktop keyboard do something like this? To do the same little task on my computer I need to bring up a character map or look up (or remember – ha!) a numerical code. In fact, to type “Païsios” here, I entered it on my phone in SimpleNote, then copied it from there to my computer – a practice I now recommend as the quickest way to get those umlauts and cédilles into your document.