Posted by: episystechpubs | July 24, 2014

Editor’s Corner: What’s that little doodad?

Long ago and far away, someone asked me about this tiny character on our keyboards. It looks like a backwards apostrophe or single quote mark. On my keyboard, it is to the left of the 1, underneath the tilde (~) and it looks like this:


This, my friends, is called the grave accent. It isn’t used in everyday English, though you might be familiar with it if you read a lot of poetry or song lyrics. From Wikipedia:

“…sometimes used in poetry and song lyrics to indicate that a vowel usually silent is to be pronounced, in order to fit the rhythm or meter. Most often, it is applied to a word ending with -ed. For instance, the word looked is usually pronounced /ˈlʊkt/ as a single syllable, with the e silent; when written as lookèd, the e is pronounced: /ˈlʊk.ɨd/ look-ed). It can also be used in this capacity to distinguish certain pairs of identically spelled words like the past tense of learn, learned /ˈlɜrnd/, from the adjective learnèd /ˈlɜrn.ɨd/ (for example, "a very learnèd man").”

The accent is also used in some programming and is used regularly in other languages such as Dutch, French, Catalan, Italian, Mohawk, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, etc. Click the Wikipedia link above for more information on this mysterious accent hiding in plain sight on our keyboards.

Kara Church

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