An amusing exercise

cerulean's picture

Hey all. I had this weird thought: If, in some bizarre alternate history, chatspeak abbreviations like "LOL" had become popular long before there were computers and character sets, they might have, over time, become new symbols, like "et" became "&" and "at" became "@". What might they look like?

paul d hunt's picture

sorry 'bout that, folks. i mopped it up as soon as i could. thanks, edward for calling this to my attention. as you were, gentlemen.

dave bailey's picture

Ah finally, hopefully that doesn't become a regular occurance!

Andrew Layman's picture

There are some beautiful symbols here. (I especially like Ikean's
2005-11-24 2am
based on an idea of Mark Simonson's.) Here are another two possible evolutions of LOL starting from script, and one of them, my favorite, ends up looking remarkably like cerulean's 2005-11-19 WTF, though the other is more suggestive of a smile:

Lex Kominek's picture

The focus seems to be on WTF and LOL. How about something like this for g2g?

- Lex

P.S. A master calligrapher I ain't.

Lex Kominek's picture


It's sort of based on the prescription symbol.

- Lex

dave bailey's picture

I think the point made earlier about if these were to be viable solutions they would have to ultimately be easy glyphs to produce by hand and not just integrated into new typefaces. The g2g is interesting but not really a viable solution when you could easily write g2g in the same time it takes you to create that glyph.

Lex Kominek's picture

I guess I should have shown the evolution of the g2g glyph. I started with a much simpler hand-drawn version, then figured out what it might look like once it had been turned into type. I'll post it when I get home from work.

- Lex

Lex Kominek's picture

Here's where that g2g originated:

- Lex

dezcom's picture

Here is a ligature for "LOL"


feigner's picture

There's a slight mistake in this line of thought. symbols @ and & are created for single words. LOL, WTF, ROTFL, are all phrases and therefore are more akin to S.A.S.E. (self addressed stamped envelope) or P.S. (post script) and the likes...

dave bailey's picture

Here is a ligature for “LOL”

Each glyph in the typeface is a 24 bit TIFF with noticable increase in size or performance. ;^)

dezcom's picture

"Each glyph in the typeface is a 24 bit TIFF with transparencies…no noticable increase in size or performance. ;^)"

Right, just an increase in volume :-)


blackduke's picture

some nice wtf's but all a little too complicated to be written down.

dezcom's picture

What does "wtf" mean?


dave bailey's picture

What the f#&$ :o)

dezcom's picture

Thanks David. Earlier, I guess then I could have said" "wtf does wtf mean?"


dave bailey's picture

Haha, true. No problem!

Daminox's picture

Hello guys, I am just discovering this great forum and already want to apologize for my bad english (sorry if I make mistakes).
I am french and have been practicing calligraphy for 5 years but using computers for only 2 years (!). I simply don't know WTF to do to make pictures appear in my message, I almost tried everything & hope you'll get them.

This WTF exercise is particularly interesting and funny.
Here is what I would propose:

- first, an exercise of simplifying the form into one single line, then drawing it faster and faster until it becomes something new...
Image hosted by

The final sign looks like a D if rotated clockwise! Calligraphy on a computer is something strange because feelings are lost, but this first experience is pretty amusing.

- then, a kind of logo work done in happy orange to go with the meaning:
Image hosted by

Please tell me which you like the most (my favourite tend to be number 3)

Hope you'll enjoy & even if my culture in modern typography is poor, I truly appreciate letterworks.

Thanks for reading.

engelhardt's picture

In regard to the "mess" that has since been cleaned up by Paul...

Did anyone else notice that this particular thread was BoingBoing'd last Wednesday?

It was also mentioned on before that even, and I'm sure on many other blogs since. But that's probably how the comment spammers and trolls got in here.

Daminox's picture

I have modified proportions to make it look better:

Do I have to consider myself as a troll? If so, don't worry this will be my last message.

engelhardt's picture

> Do I have to consider myself as a troll? If so, don’t worry this will be my last message.

Heavens, NO! New type-enthusiasts are always welcome here.

Apparently there were several off-topic, nasty posts which have since been deleted by Typophile moderators. Being widely-linked in the blogosphere has benefits (bringing new, genuinely-interested people to the site) and pitfalls (bringing spam-bots and troublemakers).

Daminox's picture

Ok, sorry for misunderstanding...
Letters are the same for us but language isn't! Sometimes it's hard to get everithing in the wright way.

Best regards.


Mark Simonson's picture

Daminox, to upload images, you need the Flash 8 player plug-in installed in your browser. Once you do this, an "Insert image" link will appear below the Comment box.

gmckenzi's picture

I sat down to a piece of paper and this was my first attempt at writing LOL with a Sharpie as a symbol:

gmckenzi's picture

And after a half-dozen scrawls, here's where I ended up for WTF:

It's written like a normal 'w' that loops up and then down, finishing by making the crossbar at the bottom. I like it -- I'm not sure why, but I think there's a certain vulgarity to the symbol that matches with the spirit of WTF.

engelhardt's picture

> I like it — I’m not sure why, but I think there’s a certain vulgarity to the symbol

It reminds me of someone (upside-down) flipping the bird. Or a butt. Yep. It kinda looks like a butt. :)

gmckenzi's picture

Okay, last one...I promise. I know that I arrived on this thread way late.

Here's my take on RTFM:

Yes, just an exclamation-point opened like a book.

dezcom's picture

That's just too cheeky Gavin. :-)


rfenwick's picture

Haha, I have to say that to have a whole hefty thread discussing how best to represent "What the F**k" is proof that typographers and type designers do have a sense of humour.

dezcom's picture

"...proof that typographers and type designers do have a sense of humour."

Nah, it just proves that we are not much different than sailors or truck drivers :-)


Daminox's picture

Of course the WTF sign has to be obscene, but in a hidden and sofisticated way!
Here is an interrogative form of the sign I proposed a few days ago.
Its vulgarity seems obvious (ask Dr Freud or your girlfriend if you don't understand why...) :

- Thanks for your help on macroflash, so good it is-

Last thing, a butt-like logo that has not forgotten its gothic origins :

I'm afraid this funny exercise is making myself an addict. I swear this is my last try (until tomorrow?).

hrant's picture

Wow, my kinda thread!! Great stuff guys.
But did this really get over 54 thousand reads?!
I guess the spam comes with the territory. Or is it that
the beef comes with the territory... Or the actual cows.

> the imaginary alphabet that Alessio Leonardi showed in his presentation at TypeCon

Mark, where can I see this?

Ikean, I guess yours really IS the German one: "Vat der ****?!". ;-)

> they would have to ultimately be easy glyphs to produce by hand

Maybe. But that would place it outside the context of this site.

> @ and & are created for single words.

I've actually heard that "&" was originally called "and per se and" or something.

> Letters are the same for us but language isn’t!

I think letters aren't either! :-)


tomash's picture

hi, how can i contact with owner of this blog? Give me e-mail please , i have a question.

Dr. Tomash Sanderson

Mike Duge
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Paul Cutler's picture

Mark Simonsons first post is a rough sketch?

Excuse me while I die…


John Hudson's picture

But did this really get over 54 thousand reads?!

Yes, we were boing-boing'd.

cuttlefish's picture

Ho boy! Porn spam on university forums linked here! WTF?
(Now would be a good time to have that handy ligature.)

Daminox's picture

I've been thinking about it recently...

Different language, different letters - collaboration!

metalfoot's picture

Those last two are eerily reminiscent of the old Hartford Whalers logo...

dezcom's picture

The t and the f look like bosom buddies :-)


Si_Daniels's picture

Chris, is that the breast you could come up with? ;-)

John Hudson's picture

Titilating though this is, we don't want to get boing-boing'd again.

dezcom's picture

Vahrumpah! Chiiish!



markweee's picture

[spam removed by moderator]

nogush's picture

[removed by moderator]

paragraph's picture

Removed by [myself]

Ad3m's picture

I’ve had a look for a FAQ which might save me asking this question - couldn’t find one, though this may be due to an error in my search rather than the document’s absence - and I don’t Sohbet know whether it’s a massive etiquette breach to even ask this, but:

I really like one of your wtf ligatures. Please may I start to use muhabbet it, giving you appropriate credit?

Thanks in advance,
(having checked to see whether it’s possible to e-mail you this rather than posting it to the board)

Theunis de Jong's picture

Oh, that eternal question of how to get rich quickly; and the miraculous invention of spam as the solution...

dtw's picture

I hear that the province of Asdsd in the country of Sdfsdf has declared war on San Serriffe. Does Ad3m know anything about it?

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