Wingdings – what, where, when?

New video by culture website Vox has taken a look at the origins of Wingdings.

As a means of writing sentences, Wingdings fails — but that was never its purpose. It was created to be used as a unique tool for the pre-internet era. It was akin to emojis, but with even more utility.

There also is a feature article on the subject:

‘We know that Microsoft named the font Wingdings by combining Windows and dingbat. But what’s a dingbat?

‘When using a printing press, printers needed a shortcut when it came to ornamenting their text. Every figure or letter had to be hand-carved and laid out before anything could be printed, so it was too laborious to make a new template for every drawing or figure.

‘Enter dingbats. These tiny pieces included a variety of reusable shapes that could be slotted into text and used as ornamentation in a book.

‘They’ve been around as long as type has been around,” says Nick Sherman, a typographer and typographic consultant. “It all started with ornamentation of title pages and things like that.”

‘The same way a Wingdings user might slot in a Wingding mailbox while asking for an RSVP, an analog printer could use a dingbat to quickly add some flair to a page.

‘As for where the dingbats name came from, nobody knows for sure. “A lot of printing terms start as a colloquial thing,” Sherman says. Bigelow notes another possible origin: dingus, a Dutch word for thing. It could also be an onomatopoeic invention, like the sound of a piece of metal type falling on the floor.’

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