IPA in spreadsheets (was: antedating "hobo" 1885)

Nathan Sanders Nathan.Sanders at WILLIAMS.EDU
Thu May 28 22:48:11 UTC 2009

On May 28, 2009, at 5:50 PM, Tom Zurinskas wrote:

> Can these fonts be used in spreadsheets and can they be put in
> emails like this forum and filenames?

I think you are confused between "font" and "character" (and perhaps
also "encoding" and "glyph").  The characters can of course be put
into a spreadsheet and send via email (provided you have a way of
inputting them, such as an appropriate keyboard).  Whether someone
else can see the characters as the glyphs you want them to see depends
on whether they have a font installed that maps the characters to the
glyphs you desire.

Whether you can use a particular character or not in filenames (and
have it show up as the glyph you want) depends entirely on your
operating system (and the system font you use to view filenames).  I
have no trouble at all using IPA characters in filenames in Mac OS X.

> Of course truespel can do all these things without the need for
> special fonts.

Nonsense.  Truespel needs a font that uses glyphs that match the
English alphabet (and has an ASCII encoding).  Truespel as you know it
would be unrecognizable if rendered with a font like Symbol or

> A plain typewriter can do truespel.

I don't think I've seen a "plain typewriter" in use in over 15 years!
I remember trying to find one when applying to grad school in 1995,
and there were none to be found.  I had to fill out the application
form by hand.

A separate issue on this broader topic of ease of use of different
transcription systems in the computational world, the di- and
trigraphs in Truespel make it very difficult to write simple search

If I want to search for all words containing the lax mid front vowel,
my search string would be just a single character if my list is
written with IPA characters: ɛ or E, depending on whether I've used
real IPA or ASCII-IPA.

But to search a list written in Truespel, I have to use a horrible
search string like [^eouia]e[^er] (using regular expressions) to
guarantee my match results don't contain words with "ee", "oe", "ue",
"ie", "ae", or "er" instead of "e".


Nathan Sanders
Linguistics Program
Williams College

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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