Friday, November 2, 2007

A ? of character(s)

You can find virtually everything (or everything virtually?) online, but electronic publishing routinely stumbles over little things: accent marks.

In a previous professional incarnation, I made a chronic pest of myself to get accents grave and acute, umlauts, tildes and other alphabetic doodads into print. The effort finally succeeded – but only in print, not online.

I’m often reminded of that struggle when I run across the name of the Cleveland Orchestra’s music director, Franz Welser-Möst. On the Web site of his hometown paper, The Plain Dealer, the name used to appear as “Welser-M?st.” Nowadays, it's “Welser-MÖst.” A link to the paper on the ArtsJournal Web site renders it as “Welser-MÄ–st.” The online version of a review in The Washington Post dodged the bullet with "Welser-Moest," only to be felled by Tchaikovsky's "Path¿tique" Symphony.

Really, now: If a relic from the manual-typewriter age can coax accented characters out of Microsoft Word and post them on Blogspot, the high-tech pros of high-class Web publishers can manage it.