questions & comments

Hilmar Schlegel Hilmar Schlegel <>
Fri, 10 Jul 1998 17:40:08 -0400

Rebecca and Rowland wrote:
> At 7:49 am -0400 8/7/98, Hilmar Schlegel wrote:
> >Thierry Bouche wrote:
> [snip]
> > The development in font technology allows this at least
> >by increasing flexibility.
> >
> >If proper English requires not to use sz, then please use s-long s-final
> >instead - or is this forbidden???? ;-)
> Not so much forbidden as impossible.  Where on Earth am I going to get a
> long s from?  Or do you seriously expect me to use Yannis Fraktur all the
> time ;-)

I didn't say: Fraktur but long s which was common with Roman fonts also
in America.
Also available in every WGL font for the win95 fans...

> >BTW, exactly according the same dogma the new German spelling reform
> >implies the revival of the long s and its need in every font...
> Can you say more about this?

Not sure if comp.fonts would be more appropriate...
Anyway, sz as specific German is a separate kind of s, namely sharp s.
It is not a ligature despite it was typeset (because the lack of a
separte design) as s-long z-final, e.g. by Gutenberg. The z-final is the
round form of the z you find also in old English and phonetics as yogh.
Call it a s-long yogh ligature if you like.
Since Latin(Roman) fonts didn't provide a sharp s the ligature s-long
s-final was used as placeholder for setting German. The fonts which are
based on a romanic design still do it this way. The bonafide German
sharp s however, is still a ligature of s-long and round z. You'll see
the difference e.g. in CM where DEK used this approach while the DC/EC
fonts provide only the replacement.
There was a 1:1 correspondence between s-long s-final and sz, as
ligature or special design. For cases which demand not to use the sharp
s the only solution is not to apply the ligature and write s-long
s-final separately. Two such cases are:
- English use of final double s (only one can be a *final* form), 
- new German spelling rules, which demand *some* sharp s to be written
as double s: to make the context clear these two s in final position
should be written as s-long s-final (you do not find final double s in
German otherwise, even "Fitnesz" is written with sharp s).

Therefore new spelling rules and resistance against the sharp s causes
the revival of the need of the long s (which was assumed to be
The 1:1 correspondence could be used in Tex for the markup. Then for
example the "upper case" problem of sharp s would completely disappear:
s-long s-final would become via the ligature the sharp s and between
S-long and S-final is no difference, also no ligature. Beware this no
longer works with the new German spelling rules! There are *some* cases
where the ligature applies and a few where not - what a fun for software
design which has to deal with spelling, hyphenation and fonts...

BTW, writing sharp s in English as s-long s-final would also workaround
the pronounciation problem, I guess ;-)

Possible it would be worth a try to set up a FAQ for the case...

Hilmar Schlegel

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