General Contractions

Will Miller's picture

'round and 'round the mulberry bush.

the apostrophe used to indicate the shortened word "around"; is this a standard apostrophe pointing downward and to the left or is it something called an inverted comma that is referenced in Elements of Typo Style? Basically a backwards apostrophe. only because you're removing something before the apostrophe rather than placing an S after a letter... thanks

Gary Long's picture

You use the standard apostrophe (not a backwards one), as in all cases in English where it indicates omitted letters. Many programs will automatically place a single opening quote (backwards apostrophe) at the beginning of a word, so you've got to manually correct this.

Gräfenberg's picture

What Gary said.

...or is it something called an inverted comma that is referenced in Elements of Typo Style? Basically a backwards apostrophe.
Otherwise known as an open single quote/quotation mark - ‘

An apostrophe is a closed single quote/quotation mark - ’ - becoming an apostrophe simply when used as one.

The problem with the term inverted comma is that it’s not specific, since technically one should refer to inverted commas (i.e. the pair of them).

kentlew's picture

The term "inverted comma" comes from the fact that in some fonts of metal type there was, in fact, no opening quote cut or cast. Instead, the compositor would indeed invert a comma and set that as the opening quote. Two of them for opening double quotation marks, closed with two apostrophes.

A classic example of this can be seen in Eric Gill's Essay on Typography.

-- K.

eliason's picture

Interesting, Kent! Are the (cap heights of) letters always centered vertically on metal pieces of type? Wouldn't it have to be for this to work?

Gräfenberg's picture

Are the (cap heights of) letters always centered vertically on metal pieces of type?

Here's a drawing showing a typical cast-metal cap:
http://www.hwinprint.com.au/image-type.jpg

kentlew's picture

Craig -- As you surmise, the position of the baseline alignment relative to the overall cap height and ascender length influenced the relative alignment of the inverted comma with the apostrophe. If you look at the Gill example, you'll see that the practice had mixed results.

I think that Gill's use in his essay (c. 1930) may have been intentionally anachronistic.

I believe this [the actually inverted comma] was really only in active use during the period when the practice of using quotation marks was in its formative years. By the time the conventions we know today started to solidify, I think founders started casting actual marks, precisely because of the alignment issue you allude to. (This is a supposition on my part, not a researched fact.)

I think cast opening quote marks were common well in advance of standardized baseline alignments (c. 1890s), but I could be mistaken. Might be an interesting topic to research a little more -- the relative timelines for the conventions of quotation marks against the provision of specifically cast opening quotation marks.

-- K.

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