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? 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?