[Ads-l] reimport: rubi (1974), ruby (1998)

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 29 13:14:35 EDT 2018

The word “rubi/ruby” refers to smaller-print characters used to provide pronunciations of words in at least Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_character <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_character>). According to the history section of that page, the word “ruby” comes from the Japanese word ルビ (rubi) which was derived from the English word “ruby”, referring to the traditional name (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_point-size_names <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_point-size_names>) for 5 1/2 point type. The latter Wikipedia article also says that the OED has this meaning of “ruby”.

Wiktionary defines “rubi” (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rubi <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rubi>) as an alternative to “ruby” (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ruby <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ruby>) in the sense of symbols used as a pronunciation guide for Chinese and Japanese characters. Neither makes it into the English Oxford Living Dictionaries (c.f. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ruby <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ruby>) or Merriam-Webster (c.f. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ruby <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ruby>). Dictionary.com <http://dictionary.com/> (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ruby <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ruby>) includes "a 5½-point type, nearly corresponding in size to American agate.”

Wikipedia (again https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_character#History <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_character#History>) says that the spelling “ruby" gained popularity with the World Wide Web Consortium’s adoption of ruby standards. A 1998 document describing that can be found at https://www.w3.org/TR/1998/WD-ruby-19981221/ <https://www.w3.org/TR/1998/WD-ruby-19981221/>. 

1. 1974 (https://bit.ly/2yVt1HZ <https://bit.ly/2yVt1HZ>)
Accomplices of Silence: The Modern Japanese Novel, p. 184 
by Masao Miyoshi 

The _kana_ notations, called _rubi_, are very commonplace in the printing of Japanese text. Most often, a notation is added by the typesetter to the type for a particular ideogram, but at times the author makes his own choice. Sometimes Sōseki chose his own readings and at other times left the interpretation to this editor.

2. 1985 (https://bit.ly/2lK0Q5q <https://bit.ly/2lK0Q5q>) 
"English" in Japanese, p. 137
by Akira Miura

_Rubi_ comes from English _ruby_, which, in Great Britain, refers to a 5 1/2-point type….

WRT to the initial import of “ruby” into Japanese, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_character#History <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_character#History>) says that the expected romanization of “ruby” into Japanese would be ルビー (rubii) not ルビ (ruby). In “English influence on Japanese” (1928 https://bit.ly/2KwTs8h <https://bit.ly/2KwTs8h>), Sanki Ichikawa lists “rubī” (i.e., rubii) as a type size. Shortening of final long vowels in borrowed words is a common process in Japanese, so ルビー (rubii) > ルビ (rubi) is a reasonable development.

Usenet may have some useful interdatings. Also, I did not try to find citations for examples of “ruby” concerning languages other than Japanese.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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