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That Mysterious J (2006)

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That Mysterious J (2006)

Raymond

In e-mail from Microsoft employees, you may find a stray J like this one at the end of a message from Rico Mariani. Some of you might see it; others might not. What’s the deal with the J?

The J started out its life as a smiley-face. The WingDings font puts a smiley face where the letter J goes. Here, let me try: J results in J. As the message travels from machine to machine, the font formatting may get lost or mangled, resulting in the letter J appearing when a smiley face was intended. (Note that this is not the same as the smiling face incorporated into Unicode as U+263A, which looks like this: ☺. Some of you might see it; others might not.)

I recall a story (possibly apocryphal) of somebody who regularly exchanged a lot of e-mail with Microsoft employees and who as a result started signing their own messages with a J, figuring this was some sort of Microsoft slang. The Microsoft employees who got the J-messages scratched their heads until they were able to figure out how their correspondent arrived at this fabulous deduction.

And now, the mysterious J has come full circle, because some people use it ironically, intentionally just writing a J without setting the font, in the same way people making fun of “leet” writing may “accidentally” type “1”s (or even more absurdly, the word “one”) into a row of exclamation points.

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Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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