Wicked Bugs made me jump. Noted author Amy Stewart covers the bugs that don't have our best interests at heart; the hornets that sting us, the bedbugs that bite us, the weevils that destroy our food, and the "bookworms" that even eat our books.
Brr! It's a great title and a fascinating read. And for some reason, this reminded me what I always thought of as "bugs" on the page: dingbats. Dingbats are typographical elements that help space out material on the page. They are sometimes called fleurons, or printers' ornaments (or printers’ flowers), as their function is mainly decorative.
One great printers' ornament comes from the natural world: the hedera. Here are hederas:
from the very interesting Syntax in Print site.
These elements are some of the very oldest typographic marks, from back in the Greek and Roman days, when many inscriptions didn't even have spaces between the words, and commas and periods lay centuries in the future.
What were they used for? Hederas occurred between paragraphs in long documents, in Greek and Latin texts.
What does the word hedera mean? Ask any gardener and you'll get a quick answer: It means "ivy" in Latin, and is the name of the genus of many common plants.
Amy Stewart would definitely know that. She won the American Horticultural Society’s 2010 Book Award for Wicked Plants.
What's your favorite dingbat? If you've never thought of such a thing, what is your favorite insect?
Ellen Scordato has 25 years' book publishing experience as an editor, copy editor, proofreader, and managing editor. She's now a partner in The Stonesong Press, a nonfiction book producer and agency. In addition to her work at Stonesong, Ellen has taught grammar, punctuation, and style at the New School for more than 12 years in the English Language Studies department and taught English as a Second Language at Cabrini Immigrant Services.
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