[XeTeX] Typographic question : quotation It smarks and apostrophes

Dave Howell groups.2009a at grandfenwick.net
Wed Dec 21 10:42:11 CET 2011

On Dec 17, 2011, at 9:40 , Tobias Schoel wrote:

> Hmm, perhaps I was only thinking that u2019 and u0027 should be different. I still don't get, why prime (u2032) and apostroph (u2019 as is preferred to u0027) are different although right single quotation mark and apostroph are equal.

The Latin-1 apostrophe (u0027) is a symmetric vertical symbol, inherited from typewriters. You can (shudder) use the same glyph at the beginning and end of a quotation. It's an ugly thing, and deserves to be avoided. It is replaced by either u2018 or u2019, depending on context—the “left” and “right” matching set of single quotes. 

Prime, properly glyphed, is distinctly different from all of the above. It is a non-curly stroke, wider at the top and narrowing to a point, but slanting slightly from upper right to lower left. It's a much better choice than any of the apostrophes (at least in my view) for doing the minutes and seconds of latitude and longitude, as well as the obvious use in mathematics for denoting 'prime.'

> Thank you, Jonathan (but I really do wish the answer
> had been "no" : it is far to easy to mis-parse the
> author's text).

I think that the original alternative case you cite is, after all, an extremely rare occurrence. Nested quotes are quite unusual in English, and that possessive plural form, even more so. I'm not sure I've ever seen a possessive plural inside single quotes before. 

Of course, the original example was “ ‘weaver’s windows’, ” and there's no ambiguity there at all. In English, one doesn't close out a quotation in the middle of the word, so the “r’s” can only be an apostrophe, not a closing single quote. Likewise, the comma after “windows” disallows the option of the next word being possessed by a multiplicity of windows. 

Which is not to say that I think this scheme is perfect. I think there's a strong case for «guillamets» over quotation marks, but I don't think they'll be entering general use in English any time soon. 

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