Monday, October 3, 2011

Lorem Ipsum

I love it when paper traditions are continued in our electronic age.

Today, I needed to go to a website which was recently reorganized.  I saw a link that hadn't been there before, and it sounded interesting.  I clicked and....the page was in Latin.  It contained one paragraph.

"Lorum ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adpisicing elit..." the paragraph began.  (I have a feeling many people reading this know where this is going, but I wasn't in on the secret.)

Hmmm.  Why does this website have a page in Latin?  For all my love of history, I've never studied Latin. (Languages are not my strength.)  What could this possibly be saying?  Or, was someone practicing their Latin homework while designing a web page?

A quick Google search and some information from a friend told me what was happening.  But even if you know about Lorem ipsum, you may not know all of the story.

The paragraph I saw is what is called a "placeholder".  Some call it "Lorem ipsum". It is a form of "greeking".  Although it resembles Latin, it really is "dummy text" used when laying something out or where you just need nonsense text.  We've all seen it.  Software has used it since the 1980's and it has been used (for print) since at least the 1960's.  Another website I investigated suggested its use may have originated in the 1500's.

The rest of this story deals with where the dummy Latin text originated from.  It isn't simply a stringing together of various random Latin words.   It turns out it was originally taken from a writing of the Roman politician and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero.   As Cicero was murdered in 43 B.C.E., this means the text Lorem Ipsum comes from is some 2000 years (more or less-math is not a strength of mine, either) old.

Now I was excited!  (It's obvious that the web page I saw went live just a little bit early.)

We love to read about the Romans. We love TV series based on the Romans. (Spartacus, Rome, just to name two recent ones.)   We still use Roman numerals.  Various professions still use Latin extensively.

And now, Roman tradition has reached the Internet.

The more things change....

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