Wednesday Words: What is Lorem Ipsum?

While looking through templates for my blog, I read the words Lorem Ipsum perhaps 4,622 times – or at least it felt like it. Have you seen them?

What is Lorem Ipsum?  Well, it’s dummy, or placeholder, text historically used in the printing business. You can find it on software templates now as well, including blog templates.  Lorem Ipsum appears to most to be nonsense wording, such as:

Ea eam labores imperdiet, apeirian democritum ei nam, doming neglegentur ad vis. Ne malorum ceteros feugait quo, ius ea liber offendit placerat, est habemus aliquyam legendos id. Eam no corpora maluisset definitiones, eam mucius malorum id. Quo ea idque commodo utroque, per ex eros etiam accumsan.

From what source did this odd nonsense language originate? Lipsum.com explains that the lines come from The Extremes of Good and Evil by Cicero, written in 45 B.C.  The line begins, “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. . .” Roughly translated, Lorem Ipsum means “Pain itself.” The essay from Cicero addresses the partaking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. If you want to see a full translation of the passage, click HERE.

Odd to think that the words “pain itself” were chosen to grace the pages of printing, newsletter, and blog templates. And why choose text from over 2000 years ago? Why not use the lyrics of Rapture by Blondie? Plenty of those are nonsense too.

Just because…

Typically, Lorem Ipsum generators use a vocabulary of over 200 Latin words somewhat randomly arranged.  (Check out Wikipedia’s entry on Lorem Ipsum as well.)

Lorum Ipsum is not the only dummy text around, however. If you much prefer English gobbledygook, you can try Malevole’s text generator. Or Lorem Ipsum Generator 3 permits you to choose what language your gibberish appears in. The Sitepoint website links to other dummy text generators as well.

Why on earth does this fascinate me? I find words of all kinds intriguing, and the use of placeholder text indicates that words and letters are important even if they mean nothing at all.

It’s a bit like hearing a toddler babble. Young children try out sounds and combinations of sounds until they stumble upon something that seems to have meaning to the adults around them. Then they repeat it. The goo-goos and ga-gas are like placeholder language, until the real thing replaces the babbling.

Moreover, we understand at some basic level that the presentation of text is important, so that we want to see how the words look on the page even before we have specific sentences ready to go. Admittedly, Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address on an envelope, but it still matters how a printed page looks if you want readers to devour it.  Using Latin or other dummy text reminds us how key it is to have our words be accessible to others. It is not enough to speak brilliance to ourselves. We want others to read our words.

Frankly, I’m glad that there was placeholder text so I could view how the blog page would look once I came up with something to say. 

Have you used Lorem Ipsum or other dummy text for any purpose? What do you know about text generators? Might you ever use them? Do you know Latin? Do you think it matters how text is presented to readers? Is content or presentation more important?

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9 thoughts on “Wednesday Words: What is Lorem Ipsum?

  1. Nope, I've never used dummy text on purpose. I wish I did know Latin, but all I know of antiquated language is a bit of Greek and Hebrew from seminary.I think content and presentation are equally important for readers. If either is off kilter, I stop reading.

  2. Very interesting. I have seen Lorem Ipsum, but I never knew it had an actual meaning. I seriously thought ti was just gobbledy-gook. And the bit about toddlers learning the language is interesting, too. You're just full of the knowledge today, Julie Glover. :DI've never really thought one way or the other about the words as a place holder. I will share, however, that I used to get really annoyed when I used Apple blogging software (iLife) because you had to delete the placeholder text every time you made a new blog.

  3. Interesting, I have seen Lorem Ipsum when browsing blog layouts as well. I figured it had some sort of print world meaning, but I didn't know what it was. I thought maybe the combination of letters gave a clear indicator of how they would be spaced? I don't know. But this is really interesting.

  4. Can you tell I'm an odd information gatherer? I hope the Rapture video at least introduced some whimsy. Leave it to me to mention Cicero AND Blondie in a single post!

  5. Cicero and Blondie in the same post to start off my day! Thanks Julie. I've seen the Lorem Ipsum but, like others, had no idea what it was. Thank you for the lesson.Patti

  6. Ooohhhhhhh, yeah, I've used Lorem Ipsum! Having gotten out of the graphic design field and more into web development, I don't know if this is still true, but 15+ years ago, if you were in the design field, Lorem Ipsum is the stuff! Oddly enough, it's called "Greeking" LOL. The main reason it rocks is because you would put this in a design mockup to show the client, so they'd give you feedback on the look and design elements, without getting hung up in the copy! (Same for your blog template choices.) What's interesting is Lorem Ipsum doesn't contain as many descenders (the tails on y, g, etc) as English, so it doesn't give you a 100% accurate look and feel for the type coverage, but good enough for most mockups. OK, I'll shut up now, I just love talking graphic design. Thanks for a great post!

  7. Thanks, Patti & Stacy.@Jennette – I loved the additional information you provided. "Greeking," huh? I wonder if that's from "It's all Greek to me!" Although Latin and Greek look very different. Oh well, interesting nonetheless.

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