The Nineteenth Letter — S


A sword represented the sound “esss” for the Egyptians. The pictograph “sword” soon developed into a representation that eventually looked like barbed wire instead of a sword. The Phoenicians rotated it 90 degrees and they called it sameth, which meant “post.”
For the “sh” sound, the Egyptians also had a pictograph of a jagged line going down as a symbol meaning “teeth” and called “shin,” The Greeks borrowed “shin” from the Phoenicians but drew it with three, four, and sometimes five strokes.

The Romans simplified and introduced the gracious curves, and called it “sigma.”

The “S” is abused almost everyday. The worst abuse is when the letterform is not established on the baseline. The bells of the letter “S” should dip just below the space line. It is the most complicated of all the letterfroms and a source of joy for letterform admirers

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

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