[KS] The Mystery of the Breve
ansonjae at sogang.ac.kr
Sat Sep 12 21:35:26 EDT 2009
I hope that I might ask a question related to romanization but separate from the work of the committee. It concerns the technical problem of the breves.
Once upon a time, the scholar wrote his text with a fountain pen, including the breves. He passed it to his secretary to be typed; she added the breves with her fountain pen after typing. It went to the printer who set up the pages line by line on his linotype, stopping to pick out the individual breved letters from their special boxes with tweezers and inserting them by hand into their proper place in the line of type he was setting. The line was cast and the text was printed. It took time . . .
Today, using a computer, if I want to search for a MR word which includes a breved letter in a search engine, include such a word into an email or into a blog or web page, I have first to open my word-processing program, type the word, inserting the breved letter as a 'special character' either using 'insert' or a shortcut, mark it, copy it, move back to the other window, paste it and move ahead. This is because it is completely impossible for anyone to simply type a breved letter into any word-processing program, email program, blog or webpage search or compose window in the way a French person using a French keyboard can type an accented letter.
In addition, we know that any email, blog, or web page into which we have inserted such a special character will more often than not (more than 50% of the time, I am told) fail to work when viewed on another computer, even using the same browser; the special characters will usually be seen as ? or as some kind of blob. Moreover, the text of a 500-page book composed on a PC using (say) MSWord, into which we have carefully inserted breved characters as above, once it has been sent to the editor or printer (not only in the US) will usually be transported into a Mac environment. Each breved character, to say nothing of apostrophes and the dashes if not hyphens, disappears and someone has to go through the entire text, looking at a printout of the original, re-inserting the breved characters etc (which is said to be especially tricky on a Mac, I don't know). It is also not possible to use the MSWord 'search and replace' function to introduce as 'replace' a word with a breved letter.
So my question is: in the light of this set of problems with breved letters, which are with us every day and will not be going away any time soon, WHY is there still, in 2009, no concerted move among the (very limited) number of people regularly using MR to revise it and get rid of those impossible breves? What is the great advantage of retaining them? Do they have magic powers? I just do not understand it.
Sogang University, Seoul
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