Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet

I was browsing this store for worker clothes in Germany a few weeks back when I noticed something funny in the bottom corner. I’ve highlighted the snafu in the screenshot below with a big red arrow.

lorem ipsum screen shoot

The arrow points to paragraph that is definitely not in German. In fact, it’s Latin. Well, almost Latin.

The paragraph is a famous piece of Latin nonsense text that starts with, and is usually referred to as, lorem ipsum. Lorem ipsum has apparently been in existence (in one form or another), and in use by the printing and publishing industry, for centuries. Although it’s originally derived by a text from Cicero, the Latin is meaningless.

The story behind lorem ipsum is rooted in the fact that when presented with text, people tend to read it. For this reason, and because sometimes text for a document doesn’t exist until late in the process, many text and layout designers do what’s called Greeking. In Greeking, a designer inserts fake or “dummy” text that looks like real text but, because it doesn’t make any sense, lets viewers focus on the layout without the distraction of “real” words. Lorem ipsum was the printing industry’s standard dummy text. It continues to be popular in the world of desktop and web publishing.

In fact, lorem ipsum is increasingly popular. The rise of computers and computer-based web and print publishing has made it much easier and more common for text layout and design to be prototyped and much more likely that a document’s designer is not the same person or firm that publishes the final version. While both design and publishing would have been done in print houses half a century ago, today’s norm is for web, graphic, print and layout designers to give their clients pages or layouts with dummy text — often the lorem ipsum text itself. Clients — the “real” text’s producers, that is — are expected to replace the dummy text with the real text before printing or uploading their document to the web.

We can imagine what happened in this example. The clothing shop hired a web design firm who turned over the “greeked” layout to the store owners and managers. The store managers replaced the greeked text with information about their products and services. Not being experts — or just because they were careless — they missed a few spots and some of the Greeked text ended up published to the world by mistake.

A quick look around the web shows that this shop is in good company. Although lorem ipsum is often preferred because the spacing makes the text “look like” English from a distance, many other dummy texts are both used and abused. Here’s an example from an auto advertisement.

car advertisement with dummy text

Due to rapidly and radically changed roles introduced by desktop publishing — changes in structure and division of labor that are usually invisible — you can see accidentally published lorem ipsum text all over the web and in all sorts of places in the printed world as well. We don’t often reflect on the changes in the human and technological systems behind web and desktop publishing. Errors like these give an opportunity to do so.

5 thoughts on “Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet”

  1. I recently applied for a job as a tester at Sky TV’s web department and received a reply from “updateGlobalFromAddress@thisSite.com” so at least I know what I’d have been doing on my first day…

  2. “Contrary to popular belief, Lorem Ipsum is not simply random text. It has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC, making it over 2000 years old. Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, looked up one of the more obscure Latin words, consectetur, from a Lorem Ipsum passage, and going through the cites of the word in classical literature, discovered the undoubtable source. Lorem Ipsum comes from sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BC. This book is a treatise on the theory of ethics, very popular during the Renaissance. The first line of Lorem Ipsum, “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet..”, comes from a line in section 1.10.32.

    The standard chunk of Lorem Ipsum used since the 1500s is reproduced below for those interested. Sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 from “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” by Cicero are also reproduced in their exact original form, accompanied by English versions from the 1914 translation by H. Rackham.”

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