TECH: Formats

Charles Carson carson at ACPUB.DUKE.EDU
Thu May 13 18:56:12 UTC 1999

Dear ADS-Listers,

According to a report I heard on NPR's "All Things Considered" (10 July
1998), the Germans were going to replace ess-tset with "ss" when it
officially revised its spelling and punctuation last summer. Even before
the reform it was customary to use "ss" as a substitute (e.g., gross
'big'), but I prefer a capital B (e.g., groB). German writers in
Switzerland have always used "ss."

Ess-tset (represented here by "B") was a hold-over from Fraktur, the
old-style German type. It was a ligature formed by combining the medial "s"
with a "z." (There were two different characters used to represent "s"
depending on where it fell in a morpheme. The medial "s" looked like an "f"
and appeared only in the middle of a morpheme. A more traditional Gothic
"s" appeared in initial or final position.) If "ss" appeared at the end of
a morpheme, it was written as "B," though I don't know the historial
connection between "ss" and "sz."

Until the reforms this past summer, "B" was still used in final position on
morpheme boundaries (e.g., ausschieBen [= aus + scheiB + en] 'to lock out').

Charles Carson
Managing Editor, ADS Publications

>>Even though I'm not Mark, I have a suggestion.  You can follow the letter
>>the diacritic, e.g. Cine`ma or re'ussi or e^tre or franc,ais or man~ana or
>>u"ber.  For German, folks usually use a following 'e' in place of an
>>e.g. ueber.  The French emails I receive just omit the diacritics entirely.
>Those foresighted Germans! In addition to the umlaut, there's another
>oddball character, the ess-tset (sp?). It's the one that looks like a
>capital 'B' with the bottom loop open. It's a shortcut for 'ss', and
>allegedly there are rules which dictate when it can be used.

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