at Ryozen Kannon, Kyoto, Japan

It’s not like English needs the letter X anyway. Anything with an X in it could be spelled with some other letter or letters, usually ‘ks’ or ‘z’.

Of course, it’s possible to go too far in trying to simplify English spelling. It’s pretty much impossible not to, in fact, which is why no one since Noah Webster has really succeeded. (You have him to thank—or curse—for most of the differences between American and British spelling.)

Text illusion

A funny thing happened when I was reading this book.

The Story of My Experiments with Truth
The Story of My Experiments with Truth, the autobiography of Gandhi

What does this heading say?


I somehow read that as EVIL COMPANIONS. Because the ‘X’ looks like an ‘E’ and the period next to the ‘I’ makes the ‘I’ look like an ‘L’.

One reason why I think I was so ready to read ‘I.’ as an ‘L’ is that the print quality of the whole book was not so good, and letters or parts of letters were often missing. My eyes had gotten used to filling in ‘missing’ parts, and filled in an ‘L’ where there actually wasn’t one.

Reminds me of the time I misread ‘China Unicom’ as ‘China Unicorn’ early on when I was working for China Knowledge.

There’s a word for what happens when letters are too close together. Letter spacing is called ‘kerning’. Bad letter spacing is jokingly called ‘keming’.

“Have you left your valuables behind?”

This warning from the Singapore Police, spotted in a toilet stall in Cineleisure at Orchard is semantically equivalent to “Have you left all of your valuables behind?”

Although it is a somewhat plausible question, I think a better question would be one that has a slightly different meaning, less like “Have you left everything behind?” and more like “Have you left anything behind?”