The Seventh Letter — G

In describing the letter ‘C’, we described the past of the letter ‘G’. The Phoenicians called it gimel, meaning camel. And the Greeks called it gamma. Through the Etruscans to the Romans, it represented the palatized sounds of ‘s’ and ‘c’, but the Romans (who invented only a few things) actually invented the shape we recognize as the guttoral stop ‘G”. Not only that, we actually have a name and a date when this invention took place. Reported designed by Spurious Carvilious Ruga and formerly introduced in 250 B.C. Whe “G” was created it replaced the letter ‘Z’ which until that time had been the seventh letter of the alphabet and a letter not used much by the Latin language. As the Romans still needed the ‘Z’ for Greek words they did not eliminate it entirely, they just moved it to the other end of the line and the new letter “G” put in its place. This obviously created bad-blood between the letters and even today you will be hard pressed to find a word where they comfortably stand next to each other.


The “G”, like the “C” is approximately as wide as it is high. And the “C”. the top of the letter is flattened slightly and the top terminal may be either sheared or given a beaked serif. Also, like the “C”, the thickest part of the curved stroke is usually below true center of the letter. But the drawing of a “G” is not as simple as taking the “C” and adding a vertical bar.

First, the top serif of the “G” is normally a little smaller than on the “C”. In addition, just before the curve joins up with the vertical stroke at the base of the letter, it straightens somewhat and gains a subtle increase in width. This is to optically support the rather heavy vertical bar. Sometimes, in an additional attempt to counteract the visual stress of these two strokes meeting, a protuberance, or spur, is added near the base line on the ride side of the vertical.

The vertical stroke can be a variety of lengths. Although anything too long, or too short, can detract from the legibility of the character and potentially cause reader confusion with ‘c’s or ‘o’s.

In serif types the vertical stroke usually has a top serif much like the bottom serifs of other characters. In sans serif designs the vertical can stand on its own, as in Antique Olive, or have a short horizontal connecting stroke, like the one found in Univers. In geometric sans serif designs, such as Futura and Avant Garde, the curve of the letter continues its path very much like the “C”, and attaches to a horizontal, rather than a vertical stroke.

With credit to Allen Haley,
Upper & Lower Case magazine, a typographic centered publication last published from 1970 to 1999.

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