Recently in Glyph Du Jour Category

Glyph DuJour: Romance Ordinal ª and º


What these are

The superscript a/o (sometimes underlined) are abbreviations for ordinal numbers used in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese similar to English -th (as in "4th, 5th, 6th.."). The use of "o" vs "a" depends on the gender of the noun. For instance, the "1st American woman" would be 1ª americana in Spanish and the "1st American man" would be 1º americano. The 5th Amercan woman and man would be 5ª americana/5º americano.

The Codes

I got a request for putting codes for these on the Penn State Web Computing with Accents Web site in various locations, so I thought I would summarize the codes here.

  Feminine Ordinal (ª) Masculine Ordinal (º)
Unicode Code Point U+00AA (170) U+00BA (186)
Windows Alt Code ALT+0170 ALT+0186
Mac Option Code Option+9 Option+0
HTML Entity Code ª º

But Wait There's More

But in the land of Unicode, there's always more to know...such as that in Spanish 1º primero '1st.masc' or '1º' may be shortened to primer which can be abbreviated as '1er'...or that you may write octavo 'eight.masc' as 8º or 8.º or possibly 8vo...although Google tends to have more instances of 8º.

What's important though is that only º and ª have their own code points in Unicode. For English -th, -nd, -rd or Spanish -vo,-er you have to rely on the old fashioned SUP (superscript) tag or its equivalent in CSS.


Glyph du Jour: Thermodynamic Q-dot

Q with Dot above in multiple fonts

This week, my Glyph du Jour is one that does NOT exist in Unicode. It's a capital Q with a dot above representing "heat transfer per unit time" (or rate of heat transfer). Similar thermodynamic symbols are (rate of work produced) and (rate of mass transfer)...and interestingly these DO exist in Unicode.

Why W-dot and m-dot, but no Q-dot? It's because these particular symbols probably have a use somewhere beyond thermodynamics. For instance, was sometimes used in older Classical Irish spelling (today's mh). Therefore the community was able to lobby for the inclusion of this letter within Unicode in order to transcribe historic Classical Irish texts (lucky for my thermodynamics course).

The irony here is that within Unicode Classical Irish actually has better resources than the engineering community (or the statistics community which could use p-hat or ). I don't think it's an evil conspiracy, but the fact that many engineers probably think of their notation quirks as a "font/layout" issue rather than as a "foreign language" issue.

The next step could be that someone proposes the inclusion of Q-dot or (and its sibling q-dot or which is rate of heat transfer per unit mass. This could raise the issue of whether we can get with just combining Q plus a "combining diacritic" dot - that is a manually combining a letter and a diacritic.

Based on what I've seen, I would say no. First, few everyday fonts support "combining accents" well. They would much rather work with precomposed characters with accents built in. partly because it is difficult to place a dot consistently for each letter without building it ahead. I can fudge a , but if I try , the dot often disappears into the taller capital Q. At best I'm stuck with Q ̇ (Q with upper-right dot).

Another lesson that someone WILL always find some new combination of the Latin alphabet to mess around with.

Dotted Letters & Combining Diacritic Test

Below is a table showing a test of the combining dot for the Q-dots and the existing dotted letters. As you can see, there are only a few dotted letters missing.
Note: Q-dots best viewed with Arial Unicode MS, Gentium or other specialized Unicode font.

Character Name Character Hex Entity Code Decimal Entity Code
Lower Q dot (Fudged) q+̇ q+̇
Capital Q dot (Fudged) Q+̇ Q+̇
Lower A with dot above ȧ ȧ ȧ
Capital A with dot above Ȧ Ȧ Ȧ
Lower B with dot above ḃ ḃ
Capital B with dot above Ḃ Ḃ
Lower C with dot above ċ ċ ċ
Capital C with dot above Ċ Ċ Ċ
Lower D with dot above ḋ ḋ
Capital D with dot above Ḋ Ḋ
Lower E with dot above ė #x0117; ė
Capital E with dot above Ė #x0116; Ė
Lower F with dot above ḟ ḟ
Capital F with dot above Ḟ Ḟ
Lower G with dot above ġ ġ ġ
Capital G with dot above Ġ Ġ Ġ
Lower H with dot above ḣ ḣ
Capital H with dot above Ḣ Ḣ
Capital I with dot above İ İ İ
Lower H with dot above ṁ ṁ
Capital H with dot above Ṁ Ṁ
Lower n with dot above ṅ ṅ
Capital N with dot above Ṅ Ṅ
Lower O with dot above ȯ ȯ ȯ
Capital O with dot above Ȯ Ȯ Ȯ
Lower P with dot above ṗ ṗ
Capital P with dot above Ṗ Ṗ
Lower R with dot above ṙ ṙ
Capital R with dot above Ṙ Ṙ
Lower S with dot above ṡ ṡ
Capital S with dot above Ṡ Ṡ
Lower T with dot above ṫ ṫ
Capital T with dot above Ṫ Ṫ
Lower W with dot above ặ ẇ
Capital W with dot above Ặ Ẇ
Lower X with dot above ẋ ẋ
Capital X with dot above Ẻ Ẋ
Lower Y with dot above ế ẏ
Capital Y with dot above Ế Ẏ
Lower Z with dot above ż ż ż
Capital Z with dot above Ż Ż Ż


Glyph du Jour: Braille 1-4-5


Below is the Braille Symbol "1-4-5" which is encoded in Unicode. As you can see it is named for the configuration of the dots, not for a letter.

Image of Braille 1-4-5 character or Braille letter D in English.

About 1-4-5

As it happens, this pattern is used for English letter D as well as for delta (Δ) in Greek, dalet (ד) in Hebrew, dal (د) in Arabic and letter (Д) in Russian. When Braille was first developed, only six cells were used, but in Unicode cells 7 and 8 were added to expand the repertoire of possible characters.

Most Braille software and hardware are devoted to visually impaired users, but there are fonts for sighted users. Below is a list of links to Braille charts by language and freeware Braille fonts.

Braille Charts

Braille Unicode Fonts


Snowflakes in Unicode (Glyphs Du Jour)


It's been a few weeks since a post, so I thought I would celebrate the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice with some snowflake symbols from the Unicode list.

Character Name Character Hex Entity Code Decimal Entity Code
SNOWFLAKE &x2744; ❄

Why the Snowflake Symbols?

I am stumped on this one. These symbols come from the "Dingbats" block of Unicode which normally includes other 'images' like the pointy finger and the leaf bullet. I had thought that these snowflakes may represent some meteorological concept, but I'm not finding any references to them. Doesn't mean one won't turn up in the future though.

Snowflake Font support

You usually need a font with a large set of math symbols to also get the extra "science" symbols. Some good bets are:

If you actually want to enter these symbols into a document, then your best bet is usually the Windows Character Map, the Macintosh Character Palette or the Macintosh Unicode Hex Input Keyboard.


Glyph Du Jour: Reversed Open E


This is a phonetic symbol I have seen before, but did not understand...until this semester. This is the vowel found in the standard RP British pronunciation of bird /bɜd/ (U.K.) or /br̩d/ in U.S. English.
image of backwards open e - it resembles a 3 or a backwards epsilon
Many accents in English, including UK English, have generally lost the /r/ after a vowel while standard American has maintained this /r/. What's interesting is that even though the /r/ is theoretically gone, there are still subtle changes in pronunciation where the /r/ used to be...which is why English speakers can still "hear" an /r/ even though it may not really be there any more.


How the Swastika Got into Unicode


Script standards seems like a relatively innocent topic, but you do encounter the strangest questions. For instance, a few weeks the Unicode list is discussing how to encode Swastika variants. Before you faint with shock, consider

1) The swastika is encoded as a symbol used in historical documents, so we’re stuck with it. It’s actually encoded in the Unihan (East Asian) block at point at U+534D.

2) The swastika is actually a positive sign in the East (India/East Asia). It was even used in a non-political manner in the West...before the rise of the Nazi party. I even found a 1920’s handkerchief from a great aunt with a charming cross stick swastika motif (in blue).

Gentle Swastika

The actual discussion is whether you need swastika variants (e.g. rotated or with different arms). But it also brings up an interesting cultural question - How long should we let the atrocities of the Nazi party hold a symbol hostage?

Right now the display of the swastika is banned in Germany...which has a logic to it. But has some odd consequences in that you can’t sell any WWII comics in Germany, even if they’re from the Allied point of view! You also can’t even sell any manga comics which may have a Buddhist non-violet swastika displayed.

Similarly, someone in the discussion section of the Swastika Wikipedia page did NOT want this page to ever be a "Featured" page, even though the goal was to discuss the positive Eastern uses of the symbol. It can head into censorship territory.

I reject using the symbol in a Neo-Nazi context, but in the spirit of trying to undo a crime of culture, I made some Swastika symbol samples from various Asian fonts. These aren't nearly as toxic.

Curved Swastika and Chinese Stroke Unihan Swastika


Glyph du Jour: Interrobang


A combination of question mark and exclamation point described in the Wikipedia as "rarely used, nonstandard English-language punctuation mark" (21 Mar 2007).

Here is a sample of it in different fonts

So what's doing in the Unicode specification? Here are some likely reasons:

  1. There may be historical documents using it - This was invented by Martin K. Speckter in 1962 to make advertisments using "?!" look "cleaner" (compare WTH?I with WTH‽). Ads from that era may include the "interrobang"
    Note: Historic usage is also why Unicode includes provisions for Tolkein scripts.
  2. Because it's there - The interrobang may arise again some day if fonts include it

Interrobang Now

A few fonts designed for Unicode include the Interrobang character. The interrobang is also in the new Microsoft Clear Type fonts, but it not widespread. On the other hand, most graphic designers could probably use super compressed character spacing to create one on the fly if it's really needed.

But...if you really want one on your Web site, just use code ‽ and it should appear on most modern browsers. In other documents, you can use the Windows Character Map or the Mac Character Palette.

You never know when you might say "Unicode has a separate interrobang character‽"

Additional Reading


The Schwa (Upside Down E)


If there's one phonetic symbol Americans are mostly likely to know it's the "schwa" /ə/ or "upside down e" for the "uh" sound. I personally remember from elementary school. Here it is in multiple fonts

Schwa in Multiple Fonts


In phonetics this is the sound similar to "uh" in American English. In many dialects of English, vowels of unstressed syllables are commonly pronounced as schwa and is one reason for spelling difficulties (e.g. is it -ible or -able both of which are really [əbəl]) It's a common "neutral" or "resting" vowel found in many languages including French, Welsh, Irish and others.

Origin of Glyph

Schwa is close to Spanish "e" (and closer to French "e" of le), so that's why the Letter E got flipped in this case.

Origin of Name

The word "schwa" is from the Hebrew word שְׁוָא (šěwā’, /ʃəˈwa/), meaning "nought"—it originally referred to one of the niqqud vowel points used with the Hebrew alphabet, which looks like a vertical pair of dots under a letter. This sign has two uses: one to indicate the schwa vowel-sound (19 Feb 2007)


About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage ( for a profile.


The standard commenting utility has been disabled due to hungry spam. If you have a comment, please feel free to drop me a line at (

Powered by Movable Type Pro

Recent Comments