[Humanist] 26.838 why the *********

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Mar 2 10:13:45 CET 2013


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 838.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Conal Tuohy <conal.tuohy at versi.edu.au>                    (49)
        Subject: Re:  26.832 why the asterisks?

  [2]   From:    Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>     (74)
        Subject: Re:  26.832 why the asterisks?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 01 Mar 2013 17:31:52 +1000
        From: Conal Tuohy <conal.tuohy at versi.edu.au>
        Subject: Re:  26.832 why the asterisks?
        In-Reply-To: <20130301063916.54874E85 at digitalhumanities.org>


On 01/03/13 16:39, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 832.
>              Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                         www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                  Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>          Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2013 21:48:01 +0000
>          From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>          Subject: rampant asteriskism
>
>
> A question, perhaps a matter of a viral stylistic perversion, perhaps a
> merely technological change. Within the last month or so I have noticed
> that some messages to Humanist come adorned with asterisks, often
> suggesting that a tag for emphasis is intended but used so often that
> only annoyance results. I delete them but would rather not have this
> work to do. Hoping for their sudden disappearance is likely to be in
> vain, but an explanation would provide at least temporary comfort. Any
> ideas?
>
> Yours,
> WM

Dear Willard

You are probably going to get a truckload of responses.

There is a long-standing convention of using asterisks as a kind of 
markup to encode emphasis inside plain text, not unlike the use of > to 
indicate quotation. I would guess the convention originally arose on 
Usenet or on bulletin boards, but in any case it's certainly hallowed by 
ancient tradition, dating back at least for decades. Over time it's been 
picked up by any number of wiki syntaxes including MediaWiki and 
lightweight markup languages such as RestructuredText and Markdown. It's 
interpreted as markup by some email and chat clients, too, including 
Microsoft Word.

I really couldn't say if last month's anomaly is due mainly to one 
particular cause, but if the convention is still spreading into new 
niches, it may just be the transformation of quantity into quality.

*Regards*

Conal
-- 
Conal Tuohy
HuNI  http://huni.net.au/  Technical Coordinator 
 http://apidictor.huni.net.au/trac/wiki/ConalSpace 
Victorian eResearch Strategic Initiative 
 http://versi.edu.au/about-us/versi-team#Con 
Skype: conal.tuohy
Twitter: @conal_tuohy <https://twitter.com/conal_tuohy>
Mobile: +61-466324297 <tel:+61-466324297>



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 09:49:42 +0100
        From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>
        Subject: Re:  26.832 why the asterisks?
        In-Reply-To: <20130301063916.54874E85 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard,

I'm a frantic over user of *s and .s. I apologize immediately because I
*know* it's *highly* annoying. Like putting! exclamation! marks!
EVERYWHERE. Or like SHOUTING in *all* caps. Another seriously. annoying.
problem. is using the period between words to stress (has the effect of
stop motion 'listening' to the text). I have annoyed thousands no doubt
with my bloody use of the.. The .. is somewhere between full stop and
ellipsis. That pause and expectation feeling exists, and it's not a ; –we
miss a glyph for it.

Anyway, more to the point: I'm using *emphasis* in plain text if there's no
bold. My use is to put in bold the most important pointers in the text
(important dates, absolute bottom line requirements etc.). There is some
evidence (in Dutch research in any case) that this supports readers in
efficiently mining the information from text. Beschränkung, meister etc. I
would advice to that as well.

Sometimes I just use it to annoy people –I know, it's mean, totally
uncalled for. Usually I give James Cummings the occasional emoticon to
grind his teeth over ;-)

All the best
-- Joris

-- 
Drs. Joris J. van Zundert
*Researcher & Developer Digital and Computational Humanities
*
Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands
*Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
*
www.huygens.knaw.nl/en/vanzundert/

-------
*Jack Sparrow: I thought you were supposed to keep to the code.
Mr. Gibbs: We figured they were more actual guidelines.
*





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