The site logo is using the wrong glyphs for its smallcaps portions. This looks bad. In The Elements of Typographical Style, Robert Bringhurst writes:

Genuine small caps are not simply shrunken versions of the full caps. They differ from large caps in stroke weight, letterfit, and internal proportions as well as in height. Any good set of small caps is designed as such from the ground up. Thickening, shrinking, and squashing the full caps with digital modification routines will only produce a parody.

If you just look at the logo up at the top of the page right now, you’ll see that the faked small caps don’t look right compared to the fullsized initial cap. Notice how the stroke width of the U is different from that of the N, I, or X:

misshapen logo

See how much wider the thick stroke of the U is than that of the I, for example? It also has the wrong x-height for the smallcaps in the font, and it distorts the proportions of the glyphs so they look all spindly and weird.

In comparison, here is what it might look like using actual smallcaps available in the font.

comparison of real vs fake smallcaps

Compare the two N’s and the two U’s up there. Notice how the faked ones are all stretched and funny looking compared with the real ones. Those are not smallcaps.

I've set that in Caslon so you can compare like with like of what happens when you switch between faked small caps and real ones. Here's the same with the logo from the English Language & Usage site, which uses real smallcaps in Caslon, not faked ones:

ELU logo comparison

The current logo is what Bringhurst calls “a parody”; it looks unprofessionally done. This is easy to fix, and should be.

Additional background from

Dennis Ritchie says that the ‘UNIX’ spelling originally happened in CACM's 1974 paper The UNIX Time-Sharing System because “we had a new typesetter and troff had just been invented and we were intoxicated by being able to produce small caps.”

Any modern use of small caps to spell UNIX is a reference to those old troff documents, so that's what we should really be imitating. So we should try to find out: did the ancient typesetter have "real" small caps, or was troff faking it? (Either way, the full-size "U" is probably wrong)

Alternative: considering the the normal naming of Unix commands and that they're case-sensitive, set the site logo in all-lowercase. Seriously, who names something with a capital letter? That's an extra key to hit!


$ unicode --max 0 --format='{category} {category_desc}\n' -s "$(IFS=: ; find $PATH -maxdepth 1 -type f -perm -o+x -printf '%f\n' | cut -c1 | tr -d '\n' )" | sort | uniq -c
   4364 Ll Letter, Lowercase
     14 Lu Letter, Uppercase
     23 Nd Number, Decimal Digit
      1 Ps Punctuation, Open

More commands on my system start with a number than start with an uppercase letter.

Clearly, we should be unix\ \&\ linux :-)

(I think caps-only terminals all long dead, so we need not deal with that complication.)

  • 2
    unix || linux The "and" has always annoyed me. It's clearly supposed to be "Unix or Linux". Well, speaking as a non-Linux user ;-) – Kusalananda Sep 13 at 10:09
  • 2
    @Kusalananda hah I love it. I always thought of it as meaning that the site was about Unix and Linux, which works fine (it’s about Unix, and it’s about Linux, so it’s about Unix and Linux); the questions however are indeed about Unix or Linux (with an inclusive or, except for people who are adamant that Unix is not Linux and vice versa). – Stephen Kitt Sep 13 at 14:28

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