This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Nuts and Bolts: pilcrows.

We can think about anything, can't we.

We can think about things even if we don't know what they're called.

We never have to think the words what-do-you-call-it or wotsit or thingummy.

I've got a feeling this must prove something profound about the connection between language and thought, so do tell if you know what it is.

Anyway, pilcrow. This is something we've all seen, and which I, personally, care about a great deal, but which few of us can name. 

Pilcrows cause me pain because they mean something has gone horribly wrong with one of my manuscripts. Either that, or I'm trying to format an ebook, which is in itself a cause of deep unease and bafflement.

So what is a pilcrow?

One of these:

¶They're found on every WORD toolbar, and they can pop up irritatingly all over the page if you press the wrong key on a computer.

¶So. We know what they're called, now. Will that alter the way we think about them?

¶And if not, why not?

¶Thing You Can Now Think About Even If You Couldn't Before: pilcrow. This word used to be pelagraphe, which is a French form of paragraph. The sign started off as a C for the Latin capitulum (which means chapter, more or less) and the double slash through the letter was a sign that marked an instruction from one scribe to another, rather than something in the text itself.

¶A pilcrow is sometimes also called an alinea, from the Latin phrase meaning off the line.

1 comment:

  1. And there I was thinking that PILCROW was a character in the Adam Mars-Jones novel of the same name! You really and truly do LEARN STUFF on Word Den...