Rather Ridiculous Rants #1: Things that Really Shouldn’t Look the Same

Why is it, I wonder, that we seem to primarily use the most similar of characters when doing math? What sadist was responsible for choosing variables and mathematical signs that look so similar? We have an ‘x’ that we use to represent multiplication, but then we have another ‘x’ that stands in for a number. On top of that, we use ‘t’ for time and ‘+’ for addition. I could complain about how ‘1’ looks like ‘7’ or how zero slashers need to check themselves before slashing through an oxygen in a chemical equation. I could complain about how a dot can mean ‘times’ or ‘point,’ signifying a decimal or ‘plus,’ in the chemical formula of hydrates. There’s far too much stuff that looks the same in notation. Open and close parentheses even look a little like 1, if you really suck.

There’s stuff that sounds the same too, but shouldn’t. Take basically anything in music theory. Something will sound like it. A chordal seventh is not the same as a seven chord and is different from the major and minor sevenths and scale degree seven. This makes it extremely difficult to speak of anything related to seven, because it all sounds the same. Additionally, I don’t know if ‘five four three’ means a second inversion five-seven chord or a root position five chord with a four-three suspension. But you don’t care about music theory. Only I care about music theory. Instead, we could just criticize the English language for its extremely high number of homophones.

From what I can tell, English has two main kinds of homophones: the ones that really aren’t homophones and the ones that actually are. First of all, let’s get this out of the way: two words are homophones if they are said the same way, but mean different things. Homo = same, phone = sound. They sound the same. And English has a lot of them. In some languages, words that sound similar are distinguished by intonation. Maybe the words for ‘4’ and ’10’ sound pretty similar, but you say one with a deep voice and you say the other with a voice that starts high and goes low. I think. But anyway, it would be nice to have some mechanism to tell between words that sound the same but aren’t. I don’t need to give you examples of homophones in the English language. (I considered making a non-comprehensive list of homophones in the English language, but I think the joke isn’t worth the effort.)

Anyway, there are more things that look the same. For one, sans serif capital ‘i’ looks like a lowercase ‘L,’ and that metaphorically grinds my gears in a rather unpleasant manner. We really shouldn’t even use sans serif fonts; they’re really ugly. Except for numbers. They’re good for numbers. But, for instance, in a sans serif font, the word ‘ill’ with a capital ‘i’ looks like the Roman Numeral III. It’s very confusing. I bet everyone hates sans serif fonts for this reason. A lowercase ‘L’ also looks like a number ‘1,’ if you’re not the type to flag your 1s.

4 and 9 shouldn’t look so similar. Maybe if you have good handwriting, they look different, but if there’s a vertical line with a round-lookin’ thing attached to the upper left part of it, it is a 9 or a 4? But they look so similar that it’s hard to tell sometimes.

All of cursive looks the same. It’s hard to resist slashing through ‘l’s and ‘h’s and other things with vertical lines because they all look like ‘t’s, unless you write cursive really slowly and who even does that? Also, p looks like q in cursive.

Why does the word untie look like the word unite? They’re basically antonyms, but they look almost exactly the same. Why does wind look like wind and lead like lead and why do it’s and its both exist and its happens to be the one case where an s without an apostrophe shows possession but it’s is also a thing but it doesn’t show possession because ‘s meaning “is” apparently overrides it indicating possession.

I hereby propose the following:

That ‘x’ never be used to indicate multiplication again. Multiplication should be done only with the little dot or with parentheses (if totally necessary).
That the decimal point be abolished in favor of representing every rational number as a fraction and every irrational number with an appropriate approximation.
That some letter other than ‘t’ be used for time, like some Greek letter idk.
That all letter ‘o’s be drawn with a compass, so to differentiate them from ‘0’s.
That every term in music theory be redefined so that they don’t all sound the same.
That words in English be pronounced as they are spelt so to avoid confusion between words that should not be homophones.
That all other homophonic words be abolished. Alternatively, English could be abandoned in favor of Inuktitut. [Ed. Note — the Knights of the Arctic Circle, who preceded the Shield, would love this.]
That serifs be added to all sans serif fonts.
That every handwritten 4 be the kind of 4 with the open top, as to prevent confusion with 9.
That only people with good handwriting be allowed to write cursively, or that mandatory penmanship classes be instated.
That one of every similarly spelled word pair be purged as to reduce confusion. This will be done by arbitration or a popular vote.

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