Re: What is ` (U+0060) for?

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Thu Aug 03 2000 - 11:04:17 EDT

Robert Lozyniak <> originally wrote:

> What's ` for? To space what? I pretty much just use
> it for writing big numbers, like 42`9496`7296.

and I think we've pretty much hashed out what it is NOT used for: it is
NOT a thousands separator in the Italian or Swiss writing traditions.

It was also NOT originally intended to serve as a left quotation mark
(in the American writing tradition) complementary to the "right" single
quotation mark at U+0027. Unfortunately, lots of users do `this' and
even ``this'' or ``this" -- I'm not really sure which is worse, but
they're both awful.

Markus Kuhn has an excellent explanation of this whole issue at
<>. Of course, as Markus
points out, if you are using a Unix-compatible shell, TeX, or some other
software that *requires* the use of U+0060 as a special quotation mark,
then of course you should do so *with those applications only*.

I think the answer lies in the character name GRAVE ACCENT; in the
original ASCII it was intended to be overprinted (using the line printer
technology of the day) above a suitable vowel -- for example, to turn E
into (U+00C9). Latin-1 includes its partner, U+00B4 ACUTE ACCENT.
Unicode has true non-spacing equivalents to these characters at U+0316
and U+0317 respectively, so I honestly don't know what the originals are
useful for now.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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