22 March 2014

Dummy Type

Book designers, especially those packaging books that haven’t been written yet, often use “dummy type” to show how words will look on the page. Back when I was in publishing, American designers tended to use English text, but British designers used a passage that began:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nam hendrerit nisi sed sollicitudin pellentesque. Nunc posuere purus rhoncus pulvinar aliquam. Ut aliquet tristique nisl vitae volutpat. Nulla aliquet porttitor venenatis.
I remember my first department head saying how when she’d started in the business she’d always been impressed by design samples from Britain because they looked so classy.

But it turns out that this isn’t real Latin—it’s a jumble of Latin-like words and phrases reminiscent of Cicero and established in the 1600s. The London Review of Books just published a Cambridge graduate student’s translation of the whole paragraph, designed to recreate the feeling of reading the original as if it were meaningful. It begins:
Rrow itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum. Because he will ab hold, uniess but through concer, and also of those who resist. Now a pure snore disturbeded sum dust. He ejjnoyes, in order that somewon, also with a severe one, unless of life. May a cusstums offficer somewon nothing of a poison-filled.
Equally enjoyable, the British scholar who produced that prose is named Jaspreet Singh Boparai, showing how bad Latin and bad English both became worldwide languages.

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