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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by Fricka on ‎04-28-2011 07:52 PM

Dingbats, huh? Why did my English teachers never cover this subject in class? I can't recall any at moment. I did go and leaf through a few of my books, especially some of the older ones, thinking that those marks might have been more common decades ago. However, to my surprise, I did find what I suppose would qualify as a dingbat, in Ann Purser's book, The Hangman's Row Enquiry. (published May 2010). It appears at the beginning of each chapter between the chapter number and the beginning of the text. It looks something like the symbol on the top row in your hedera illustration. It resembles the symbol on the top row, 5th from the left, except that in Purser's books, there are only two leaves (well, there's what might be a baby leaf--or it might just be an exuberant lift of the pen--)and a single squiggle lifting up towards the right side.


As for my favorite insect--now, that's difficult. I guess I would say the Preying Mantis, as I had several for pets in my childhood, and I loved perching them on my forefinger, watching them look around for possible prey like flies.(I hate flies, and did not mind at all, hunting and swatting them down, to give to my hungry  mantis!)My dad had built a little crate for me to keep my PM's in, with a mesh window at the front, and a hinged top. I loved watching the critters change color from brown to green,--it seemed that when one of them was in the crate, perching on one of the twigs I had placed in it, he would change to fit in with his background, but when I took him out, he would look more vibrantly green. Oh, and I learned that the males make much better pets than the females. I found out the hard way that a female mantis was much more likely to think that my finger was a prey to attach to, and decided rather quickly that I would give the females a wide berth(though still welcome to stay in our bathroom or whatever room in the house she wanted to locate in.)

by Blogger Ellen_Scordato on ‎05-02-2011 11:56 AM

Ah, the mantis is a favorite of mine, as well. They are splendid bugs! I never kept any, but my dad made us little "bug boxes" as well, and I fondly remember watching many a catepillar turn to moth or butterfly in mine.

And of course I'm glad to see the hedera alive and well, flourishing like the little flourish it is, in a May 2010 title.

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