The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

12 December 2003

Cross purposes

Microsoft's Bookshelf Symbol 7 font, included with Office 2003, includes a couple of swastikas. The company is offering a utility to purge the font set, which, says microsoft.com, contains "unacceptable characters."

The Third Reich, you'll remember, used only one swastika variation: clockwise, rotated 45 degrees. Apparently today any swastika is now considered a Nazi artifact, even if it's religious in origin; if you use the hated symbol, it has to be because it's always been your dream to annex Austria and invade Poland. Similarly, possession of a Confederate flag implies possession of enough rope to perform a couple of lynchings, and the twelve-story illuminated cross on the Bank One Tower in downtown Oklahoma City, something we see every December, means that the bank doesn't want business from non-Christians.

All this reminds me of a dust-up from about a decade ago, when someone with too much time on his hands discovered that if you type NYC in Microsoft's Wingding font — something you'd really have no reason to do, generally — you get a skull and crossbones, a Star of David, and a thumbs-up graphic. Interpreted, of course, as an anti-Semitic statement. Penn Jillette, bless him, said at the time that it could just as easily mean "Jewish people make really good pesticides."

There is defensive, and there is demented. Used to be, there was a recognizable difference between the two.

Posted at 12:24 PM to PEBKAC


Yes, but in some ways, symbols are a lot like words which can change their meaning throughout history. For instance, "gay" used to mean "happy" or at least that was the first definition to come to mind. Nowadays, a lot of people think "homosexual" first.

Posted by: sya at 4:51 PM on 12 December 2003