Re: "em" should be horizontal, "ex" vertical

David Perrell (
Mon, 11 Aug 1997 22:26:40 -0700

Message-Id: <>
From: "David Perrell" <>
To: "Peter Flynn" <>
Cc: <>
Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997 22:26:40 -0700
Subject: Re: "em" should be horizontal, "ex" vertical

Peter Flynn wrote:
> Historical irrelevancy: in noisy mechanical composing rooms, an em
> referred to as a "mutton" and an en (6pt) as a "nut", it being easier
> to distinguish these two words by lip movement than to hear the
> difference between "em" and "en".

Your typographical history is wonderful, but is not "en (6pt)" a typo?
Surely you aren't implying an en is 6 points?

Vaguely related trivia:

Anyone who's used a typewriter more than occasionally knows there are
two basic types: pica and elite. Pica is 10 characters per horizontal
inch and 6 lines per vertical inch, Elite is 12 characters per
horizontal inch and seven lines per vertical inch. (There's also a 15
character per inch typewriter; can't remember what it's called.)

Anyone who's worked in newspaper publishing knows an 'agate line' is
one column by 1/14 inch. But why is it an 'agate' line?

In Medieval Latin, a pica is a collection of church rules.

Why are there twelve points per pica? Western typography began
(approximately 500 years after the Koreans invented moveable metal
type) with the publication of Christian scripture, and twelve is a
significant number in the Christian religion. Any correlation?

David Perrell