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Old 05-26-2018, 04:45 AM   #1
gmw
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Asterism, dinkus or a gap?

My apologies for a slightly frivolous post, but strangely enough my work (related to payroll) indirectly actually led me to read this Wikipedia article.

Now it's just possible I've heard the term asterism (⁂) at some point in the past (it seems vaguely familiar though I don't actually remember it) but I'm fairly certain I'd never heard this:

***

called a dinkus. And since I don't know anyone else that might find this interesting, I'm sharing it here under the excuse of asking whether you use either of these or just a gap between scene breaks.

Last edited by gmw; 05-26-2018 at 05:05 AM. Reason: Clarification.
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Old 05-26-2018, 01:07 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
My apologies for a slightly frivolous post, but strangely enough my work (related to payroll) indirectly actually led me to read this Wikipedia article.

Now it's just possible I've heard the term asterism (⁂) at some point in the past (it seems vaguely familiar though I don't actually remember it) but I'm fairly certain I'd never heard this:

***

called a dinkus. And since I don't know anyone else that might find this interesting, I'm sharing it here under the excuse of asking whether you use either of these or just a gap between scene breaks.
I've never heard of either of these terms; I've never seen the asterism before.

Generally in print books, the row of three asterisks is used for a space break that falls at the top or bottom of the page, and might otherwise not be apparent to the reader. I don't think I've ever seen it used for every space break in a print book.
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Old 05-28-2018, 06:06 PM   #3
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I've never heard of either (but I've seen both). The dinkus is probably more common. I thought initially that the asterism was a "therefore" sign thingy that I used to use a lot in my previous life in science/engineering.

But what I love about both of them is the names. I am now wondering if I can manage to get either or both in a story. On the other hand, I feel sad for the "therefore" that it doesn't have a neat name (along with the sad, related symbol the "because").
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:27 PM   #4
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In the original edition of "Little Pedlington and the Pedlingtonians" which I recently put in the Library, asterisms were used several times, not in the narrative as such, but as the equivalent of the modern bullet point in two of the "playbills" headlining acts at the Little Pedlington Theatre Royal. I'd never seen an asterism before, and I couldn't find them in the extended character set, nor even in wingdings, so I used something else. I even tried using an asterisk superscript, then subscript, then superscript again, but it looked woeful.

So now I know what they were called. But I still can't use them in an ebook. As for the dinkus, I agree, you only see them these days in pbooks where a scene break falls at a page end. For an ebook they're not needed. I usually signify a scene line-break by capitalising the first two or three words of the new scene, as a clue. It works for me.

"Dinkus" is obviously related to "dingus". In my Dictionary of American Slang, edited by Robert Chapman, Harper & Row USA 1987 and Pan, UK 1988, dingus is defined as any unspecified or unspecifiable obect, like gizmo.

(And it's a very good dictionary, even gets "gunsel" right, which quite a few crime writers think is the same as gunman. In fact, that use is gradually overtaking the original, which was hobo slang derived from the Yiddish gantzel.)
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Old 05-28-2018, 11:29 PM   #5
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I've never heard it called a "dinkus" but I have seen the grouping of asterisks used to break up scenes. I actually prefer it in an ebook since a simple extra blank line could get lost between screens.

(Thanks for the addition to my pool of obscure terms! )
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Old 05-29-2018, 05:18 AM   #6
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I knew I'd find people here that would appreciate these words in the same way I do. Isn't it good being in good company!
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Old 05-29-2018, 06:38 AM   #7
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I note that in the example image in the Wikipedia article, the asterism is more three asterisks with the centre one raised slightly, rather than an actual triangle of asterisks.

It seems unlikely that there would have been an actual bit of type that was an asterism.

And no, I'd never heard of it before either.

Last edited by pdurrant; 05-29-2018 at 06:41 AM.
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Old 05-29-2018, 06:45 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pulpmeister View Post
...
(And it's a very good dictionary, even gets "gunsel" right, which quite a few crime writers think is the same as gunman. In fact, that use is gradually overtaking the original, which was hobo slang derived from the Yiddish gantzel.)
Gunsel! Oh, yes - I smile every time it's used in the Maltese Falcon (?? I think it was the black bird movie). There's so much to admire (or, at least, smirk at) in that movie.

I'm sure that irritates (or amuses) you as much as the use of the word "fulsome" does for me.
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Old 05-29-2018, 06:50 AM   #9
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Looking into it further, I think that the Wikipedia authors have confused two separate things.

All the other references to an asterism mention it being used to call attention to a piece of text. So it seems to me that it's rather like a fancy bullet point.

When used to separate scenes in text, I don't think it's the same thing at all - there's it just another way of doing a scene break, which can be done in a wide variety of ways, from an extra blank line, to three asterisks, to some fancy line graphic.

I certainly won't be using asterism as a work for a scene break, even when it's composed of three stars in some kind of formation.
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Old 05-29-2018, 07:12 PM   #10
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Ah. I didn't have time to read beyond the Wikipedia article (I was getting distracted from what I was supposed to be doing as it was). I wouldn't be surprised if the article got confused or misled. With this sort of stuff it can be very easy to see one or two examples of something and think it must be common.

I don't expect to use an asterism for scene breaks, but now I know the word I'm sure to find somewhere where I can use one just so I can point it out to people.
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Old 05-29-2018, 10:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skb View Post
I thought initially that the asterism was a "therefore" sign thingy that I used to use a lot in my previous life in science/engineering
The therefore symbol is Unicode U+2234:



which is three dots in a triangle (not asterisks).

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I don't expect to use an asterism for scene breaks, but now I know the word I'm sure to find somewhere where I can use one just so I can point it out to people.
You could read up a little bit more about it on the Graphic Design Stack Exchange:

https://graphicdesign.stackexchange....sm-right/55735

... but I would probably not include it in ebooks. I doubt many fonts have the actual asterism character ⁂.

Also, if you ever run across any strange punctuation, there is this fantastic book Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston.

Chapter 6: The Asterisk and the Dagger:

Quote:
The parallel trajectories of the asterisk and dagger, from the scrolls of ancient Alexandria to today’s books, newspapers, and comics, are littered with typographic footnotes of their own. Along the way the asterisk has spawned the “asterism” (⁂), named for a constellation of stars and used as late as the 1850s to indicate a “note of considerable length, which has no reference,” and also the descriptively named but enigmatic “two asterisks aligned vertically” (⁑) that lurks in Unicode’s unplumbed depths. The dagger, on the other hand, gave rise to a junior partner of its own in the form of the double dagger, or “diesis” (‡), originally used to indicate a small change in musical tone but that has now graduated to be an established reference symbol in its own right. Few other marks have survived quite so long as this pair, and their marriage is as strong as ever. Our texts will continue to be illuminated by little stars and our hyperbole punctured by sobering daggers for years to come.
It also points to this Footnote:

Quote:
77. “Unicode Character ‘TWO ASTERISKS ALIGNED VERTICALLY’ (U+2051),” FileFormat.info, http://www.fileformat.info/info/unic...2051/index.htm [last accessed May 30, 2012]; C.W. Butterfield, “Of the Asterism,” in A Comprehensive System of Grammatical and Rhetorical Punctuation: Designed for the Use of Schools (Cincinnati, OH: Longley, 1858), 37; Oxford English Dictionary, “Asterism, n.,” Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/12124 [last accessed August 27, 2012].

Last edited by Tex2002ans; 05-29-2018 at 10:51 PM.
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Old 05-30-2018, 03:15 AM   #12
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Ha! Thanks Tex2002ans. The link to the graphicdesign.stackexchange question includes some mention of that classic self-contradition:

THIS PAGE DELIBERATELY LEFT BLANK

I remember IBM manuals using this.
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