A ligature for s/he usage.

percusse's picture

Hello everyone,

I'm currently polishing my PhD thesis and my work involves human operators using robotic devices. I'm using a lot of "he or she", "s/he" or whatnot to obey the Political correctness police. I've summarized why I feel kind of sour about this issue on our TeX and friends Q&A site TeX.SE. The link to my question is

http://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/97429/a-ligature-for-she-he

In one of the comments, I've been adviced to consult your expertise on this issue. I'm not replicating the thread here to keep this simple but I would like to ask about your opinion on how I should proceed.

My excuses at the outset for my mediocre attempts :)

Thank you,

And using this opportunity, I invite you also join us and share your expertise on TeX.SE too

(I hope you don't take this as a promotional statement but we have a quite friendly community and would love to have your answers about typographical issues with our documents.)

hrant's picture

Great - just put a little bit of "h" back in there, by distributing the stroke weight more traditionally (i.e. thick verticals, thin horizontals) and maybe a differing terminal serif on the bottom-right. Which all means though that in typical sans fonts it will be harder to make this decipherable.

hhp

mars0i's picture

I like Tristan's sideways S idea.

His other ligature made me wonder: Could it make sense to move the s inside the h, merging the top of the s with the arch of the h? This would be tricky, I'm sure. It might require measures such as raising the arch and thinning the s to create more space, and all of the lines would have to be drawn very carefully to preserve the sense that the ligature derives from both an s and an h.

hrant's picture

What about making the right side of the "h" a horizontally-flipped "s"?

hhp

percusse's picture

Wow the discussion is heating up. Thanks so much guys!

In the meantime I was also playing around with the integral sign for replacing the vertical of h with a kind-of s

Here is a quick sketch of it just to stir up the soup :)

dudefellow's picture

Brilliant idea percusse.

Why not use the Armenian letter Unicode 0583, which if I am not mistaken is supposed to represent an aspirated unvoiced labial plosive. It should be readily available for most people if they have not a custom ligature at hand (See image "ArmenianPiwrU0583JPEG", Sylfaen font). If we like it, then we all have no excuse not to get started on the new pronouns. I suppose that there could be several varieties of the ligature to be used, just as there are many styles of the ampersand, for example.

hrant's picture

I think that integral-sign idea could be a good start, but for one thing it would have to be more curvy to sufficiently evoke an "s".

David, I should love that idea (since there's a minute chance people will commission me to make that Armenian letter -and thereby of course complete Armenian extensions- for hundreds of fonts ;-) but it's just not enough of an "s" there, or in fact in virtually any Armenian design. However, you've given me an idea: what if the "s" is allowed to descend, leaving the "h" to -mostly- do its thing above the baseline?

BTW, I wouldn't equate something that needs to work embedded in text -so essentially at the level of bona fide alphabetic letters- with something like the ampersand.

hhp

bartd's picture

To me, Tristan's left glyph looks like it's about to give the adjacent e an awful kick in the rear – which in some contexts might be very appropriate...

Bart

oldnick's picture

which in some contexts might be very appropriate...

I know a number of women who would say in most contexts…

dudefellow's picture

hrant: "but it's just not enough of an "s" there, or in fact in virtually any Armenian design."

As a native you would know better whether the letter cannot do double-duty or be designed to be more curvacious.

percusse: "In the meantime I was also playing around with the integral sign for replacing the vertical of h with a kind-of s"

You could also try the International Phonetic Alphabet letter "esh" used to denote an unvoiced post-alveolar fricative sibilant instead of the integral sign. There are different versions of this letter. One has an upright stem, whereas another has a backward-slanting oblique stem.

hrant: "what if the "s" is allowed to descend, leaving the "h" to -mostly- do its thing above the baseline?"

Are you thinking of a "h with hook" combined with something like a "h with left hook" as a descender?

hrant's picture

You can certainly make a փ from scratch where the two arches look like an "s" laying down, but:
- What about the out-of-place descender?
- What's the rest of the Armenian font going to look like? The arch is our biggest building-block.
- It's really too much of a hack to insert an Armenian letter in Latin text like that.

As for my descending "s" idea: allow me to emulate the State of Israel's official policy of ambiguity when it comes to possessing nuclear weapons... :-) Seriously: I actually think explaining an idea leads to more discovery than showing it.

hhp

dudefellow's picture

hrant: "What about the out-of-place descender?"

The descender intensifies the recognition or perception of the main stem as the slant between the two letters of the ligature. It also is a referent of the letter thorn; see my post of 6 Mar 2013 — 12:17pm in this topic.

"What's the rest of the Armenian font going to look like? The arch is our biggest building-block."

Surely, can the connection of the arch to the stem not begin closer to the middle of the stem than usual?

percusse's picture

dudefellow, I think U+0283 is really a great idea for sans-serif fonts. The integral-like one can still be used for the serif types too.

I do agree with hrant on making the "s" a little more pronounced, but at the same time, I fear that it might make it too feminine. I guess there is a balance between where it becomes pompous/decorated and where it becomes a mistyped "he". I believe that it should also look neutral as much as its meaning. I don't know how to convert the ornament like circles to actual serifs. My attempts ended up being pretty ugly. I think I don't know enough typography to handle that.

The Armenian letter looks indeed beautiful. For some weird reason, reminds me of Yves Saint Lorent logo. It looks horizontally a little too big though.

hrant's picture

That's nothing - here's our idea of a ligature:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/48413419@N00/4083648538/
:-)

hhp

dudefellow's picture

percusse : "I don't know how to convert the ornament like circles to actual serifs."

Make the serifs parallel to the long stem of the S, and point away from the long stem of the H if the S is horizontal.

dudefellow's picture

I hope you will not mind my unclear awe puns.

Of course, suggestions are not compulsory, as there are many valid approaches.

percusse's picture

No problem at all. I'm quite enjoying this discussion thanks to all of your expertise and understanding. I'm still very slow in getting the right shapes so excuse my response speed.

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