Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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While I know and appreciate TEX for many years now, I sometimes stumble across strange things while using it. One of them was my first wrongly placed footnote after about ten years of using it. Of course that bug was known and didn't really affect me as it only occurred in a very special situation that only temporarily appeared during the editing process of my document anyway.

And yesterday I bumped into another strange thing. This time concerning hyphenation of the word topology which was hyphenated topol-ogy.

I am aware that hyphenation is a strange area of the English language and I have heard many native speakers recommend simply not to hyphenate if in doubt. While this is fine for hand-written things, of course it is not an option when trying to do some justified typesetting.

From the information I have gathered so far, hyphenation in British English is done mainly along ethymological lines. So surely it should be hyphenated topo-logy [coming from what's probably spelled τοποσ and λογοσ if you like Greek letters]. In American English, syllables seem to be important for hyphenation. But again, with my sense of rhythm I'd end up with to-po-lo-gy, making TEX's hyphenation look wrong.

While people seem to keep track of hyphenation problems in TEX, I couldn't find the file of all words which are known to cause problems. In addition my reasonably detailed dictionary (Concise Oxford, 40000 words, not counting derivatives) doesn't provide information on hyphenation.

I guess the problem is that it looks like TEX is wrong but I don't like to think of it being wrong, as it usually isn't.

Doing a Google search hints that on the internet the hyphenation given by TEX is predominant, with more than 8000 hits for topol-ogy and about 450 for topo-logy. But then again, most – if not all – of these texts are computer-hyphenated and a sizeable fraction of them should be TEXed, considering that the people who use the word topology and publish their writings on the internet are likely to be mathematicians or networks people.

Addendum: Will have to stop writing TEX and revert to writing TeX instead. The spacing just looks horrible in web browsers and certainly doesn't match the subtlety of the original \TeX command. Also, the spacing of the Greek words looks horrible in Safari, but just fine in Chimera Camino.

March 29, 2003, 22:52

Tagged as TeX.

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