On a very different note, what is it with the letter G?
Seriously. I've always been interested in typefaces, and it's fascinating to me that there are some serious differences from one font to another, and yet at the same time, there's a great deal of similarity overall in the way each individual letter is displayed across all typefaces. Think, for instance, about the vanilla simplicity of the letter O. Some fonts display an O with uniform thickness all the way around, while some show it slightly larger on the sides; some show it as an elliptical shape, while some are sort of a rounded-off rectangle. Despite these variations, pretty much every font shows an O as essentially a circle, for that is, at heart, what it is.
Similarly, other letters have an easy-to-define shape: The X is two diagonal lines crossing one another in the middle. The T is a vertical line with a horizontal crossbar that meets at the top in a capital and slightly above the center in lower-case form. The J is a vertical line with a tail at bottom curving left. Anyone care to define what a G looks like?
You might be tempted to say it's simple, as most people have who I have accosted with this most unusual subject on the odd occasion. (Ususally they look at me like I'm crazy and say, "Uh, it looks like a G; what do you mean?") If pressed, they draw a G, and it usually looks like this:Fair enough, it seems straightforward. If you had a good description of the lower-case O and J, you might use them and say it looks like an O stuck to a J, because it does. The real problem with the letter G is not that it's difficult to give an example of one in form, but that any example you give is likely to have little in common with other examples.
Case in point, most typefaces don't use that form of the letter G, they use something more like this: What is that thing? Where did it come from? Something that I also tend to think about when I happen to be thinking about letters and their shapes is that there is a sort of overall feel for the way letters look throughout the Latin alphabet. Someone who didn't know our alphabet looked at a collection of randomly-selected Latin letters with, say, a Hebrew letter thrown in, they'd probably be able to pick the odd one out. Conversely, some of the letters of the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets look like they could blend right in among Latin characters, like the Gamma (Γ), Lambda (Λ), Be (Б) or Ya (Я). If there is one letter that actually belongs in the Latin alphabet, but you might accidentally think it doesn't, it's got to be that lower-case-g-thing.
But that's just the beginning, because one might be tempted (as I had once been, being a long time obsessive over typography) to try and define two types of lower-case Gs. You might think, well, one's for serif typefaces, and the other's for sans-serif, right? If only it were so. Call the one that looks like an O stuck to a J a g-type-1 and the one that looks like a deformed pair of glasses a g-type-2. Now start looking at fonts and comparing Gs. My laptop has about 120 fonts on it, 35 sans-serif with type-1, 17 sans-serif with type-2, 3 serif with type-1 and 30 serif with type-2. (The rest are capitals-only or stylized special display fonts.) This implies that there's definitely a trend towards correlation of font type to lower-case G type, but it's far from a hard-and-fast rule.
Furthermore, the distinction between types is blurred and the characteristics of types are not often typical of all instances. The type-1 Gs have, as stated, a lower portion that resembles a J, but to what extent? The tail often curls up at the end, but not always. Sometimes it curls up so much that it loops back on itself!You'd think that the lower loop of a type-2 would always be closed, until you saw one that wasn't.While type-2 Gs exist in sans-serif fonts, that little serif-looking topnotch is always present, while the topnotch on a type-1 seems to be optional. With all these strange variants, eventually you come across lower-case Gs that don't easily lend themselves to classification.Now another funny thing about G is the fact that the capital G doesn't look much like the lower-case G, unlike some letters, but even the capital is difficult to pin down in form. If anything the only unifying theme I can think of for capital Gs is that they're like capital Cs with character. The differences between different sorts of upper-case Gs are more subtle than lower-case, but they exist.
I seriously can't get over this wacky letter, believe it or not.