February 19, 2008

Idea: A new typography term

keming. noun. The result of improper kerning.

Update: Now available as a t-shirt.

Update 2: I’m writing this update several years later. Since I coined this term, it has made its way into textbooks, a Google easter egg, and other places. So I’ve written an updated post to catalog all the places people are using keming.



Now, why didn’t I think of that? You’re always a step ahead of the pack, David.

Brllllant! Now we need a word for when lowercase letter i’s look like l’s.

I support full adoption of this term.


Amazing, genius.

This is absolutely perfect!

Well played! I salute you.

Awesome - this definitely needs to be taken up!

Supporting t-shirt?

Spum bad keming.

This one time, I nearly bought an indium ingot on eBay thinking it was iridium, (much more precious).


I hate myself for finding this really really funny.



PS: I have to confess that I LOL’ED in real life.

But what’s keming?

Well Done.

Too funny!

You could sell the shirts through a web site at www.keming.corn

As a card carrying member of the typographic industry for over 45 years I think it’s time we went back to Linotype machines. You couldn’t kern anything! But keming is perfect.

I love it!

My husband who knows very little about typography, once noticed some poor keming and said, “Honey, look at that. Even I know there are way too many kernels between those letters.”

Now I have two made-up words to describe things related to kerning…

>Brllllant! Now we need a word for when lowercase letter i’s look like l’s.




I feel very dense but can you give an example of usage?

This is the basis for a puzzler: What part of a ship turns into its opposite when the “rn” is turned into an “m”?

I happen to be intimately familiar with this problem because my surname is a homonym for that part.

@ Samuel Mikel Bowles - you don’t get it, do you?

Ted: ‘stem’ y ‘stern’.



“PS: I have to confess that I LOL’ED in real life.”

That’s one of the most cringe-worthy sentences I’ve ever read. That’s saying a lot, given how widely I’ve read the interwebs.

So when my former employer had me kern 5 pt © lines, he was encouraging me to kem?

improper kerning of the word FLICK can get you in a lot of trouble.

Please who kem FLICK can just f*** off.

Simply brilliant!

Who’s up for writing a Wikipedia entry?

When I saw this linked on DF, I thought I was seeing an instance of keming.

Should a kerning joke be described as kemical?

Excellent - leaming typography one misstep at a time!

People called CLINT also need to watch it ;-)

Do automatically-generated Google Book Search results count as prior art? :)


(Note search term.)

I d o n ’ t t h i n k t h e r e i s s u c h a t h i n g

This is the gayest thing I have ever seen. Go find a friend

> Brllllant! Now we need a word for when lowercase letter i’s look like l’s.


great post. i liked it… Like the Paranaque Scandal…

I remember going to an Adobe workshop years ago, and they were telling a story about a “power user” who wanted to know more about “leading” (said user pronounced leeeeeding).

Adobe guys smiled, and told him power users need not worry about this.

I think the context was around a paper they had put out called “Get the lead” (rhymes with head).

There is a Bums Farm near us. It should be Burns but on the signpost there is distinct keming between the r and the n.

Ha ha - ‘Kernin g’ speed setting without concern for letterspacing

> Brllllant! Now we need a word for when lowercase letter i’s look like l’s.





reminds my of the arial = anal joke. in a good way, mind.

I tried to write a Wikipedia entry, and someone flagged it :’(

“This page may meet Wikipedia’s criteria for speedy deletion. The reason given is: It is a very short article lacking sufficient context to identify the subject of the article. (CSD A1).”

So quick, add to it!

@David: Brllllant.

@Jaime: Made my laugh my “burn” off. Now must go crawl around floor searching for it. (Hmmm, smaller than I thought!)

I love it!

Awesome!! God we’re nerds….

Hahaha, should be no problem to make this a proper word in the dictionary, seeing what they are adopting nowadays :-) Great idea!

I always giggle when I see “click here” in lowercase sans serifs kerned too closely, it looks like “dick here”

Oh, I LOVE this. Great entry.

@ guy who said: “You could sell the shirts through a web site at www.keming.corn”

ROFL; You made my clay.

Also, isn’t it usually upper case I’s that end up looking like (lower case) l’s? Also also, some number 1’s look like lower case l’s.

Yeah, you have to be careful. If not, you’ll end up calling a designer a “ddt” instead of a dolt.

Or you might say a PFAD creator “drods” instead of drools.

Of course, most designers will be OK, as they rely on giant numerals, rather than words.

Very cool.

In terms of the 1’s and lowercase l’s, typewriters traditionally don’t have a 1 key, and instead have you use the l key for two purposes. Strange how they worked it out that way, no?

Love that! Posting on my blog. You rock.

A++ would LOL again! XD

Outstanding. Still laughing

Shouldn’t that be a prime mark (′), not a neutral apostrophe (‘)?

Would bad kerning jokes be a kemical bomb?

Referencing this on my blog!

Not only will I adopt the term ‘keming’ from this day forward, but I will also pay its college expenses!

I was an apprentice compositor decades ago; ohh, the ugly type I’ve seen …

Bad keming is rampant in all those twisty groovy captcha phrases. It always takes me two tries to get it right.

Wow… this one definitely made me laugh too much. I got some strange looks from my roommate. This really reminds me of a sniglet.

Very pleased to see someone at least snug keming into the sniglet article, since it didn’t stand up on its own.

keming e.g.:
“The trade of sugar resulted in the cornmodification of human life.”

It should definitely be a prime mark, not an apostrophe. This is disgraceful.

That is awesome, sending this link around my circles here…You gotta get this in a text book, heck..why isin’t it on typophile.com yet? Do it.

Very clever, I support the term. Make some badges for those who want to support you on their sites, something simple like “I don’t Kem”

Please explain why keming is a natural progression and what the relationship is between kem and kern. Thank you.

Hysterical! I’ll take a badge too!

After taking the time to reset a badly kerned paragraph on a client’s card, the old bugger wanted it reset in the original BAD format. Go figure!

I’m ordering a shirt!!

Very nice. I found a great keming example from back in 2002 (originally on typographi.ca, but the blog post appears to have been taken down). Of course there were more problems than kerning with this particular Christmas tree ornament, but there you go.

I’ll support this idea - its brillant!

l’s that look like i’s = lies?


I once ordered a name tag for my dog, Puck. The ‘P’ and the ‘U’ overlapped. I made them send me a new one.

=) Brilliant

It gets truly confusing if you set the term in small caps: KEMING

One of the bst examples of keming I have seen is at:


tehe, yay for typographical jokes!

wow how lame.

Oh, my. I didn’t know that a term existed for this problem. I encounter it at work, on our main database software program, all the time.

Said software also uses Arial font, which is (so I hear) all well and good for readability, but when you have someone whose last name is, say, ILLIG, it makes it impossible to check for spelling errors.

fLIcking brIllIant

bl - how fumy

We also need the verb “to kem”, which, of course, means to kern improperly.

> Should a kerning joke be described as kemical?

We also need the verb “to kem”, which, of course, means to kern improperly.

Definitely! Those should be added to the Wikipedia page too. :) Brlllant!

We could keep the neutral apostrophe, and adopt IPA for the pronunciation key. That’d be Perfect. IPA and correct punctuation, what more can we ask for? =)

If we keep the Webster pronunciation key, then it indeed should be a prime mark, to indicate that the stress is on the syllable to the left.

Like dozens of people that have said this. Brilliant. It really is Brilliant. ^^

The Otago Star had to apologise to an art group for saying it had a ‘lousy’ year when it should have read ‘busy’.


I think that counts as a keming episode, don’t you?

You know, I took a typography class in college and actually get this! What I love is that it is so obscure that it is condescending to everybody else who doesn’t get it. How do I get a Tee?

Great idea!

Re: “Now we need a word for when lowercase letter i’s look like l’s.”

And don’t forget the seemingly indiscriminate mixing of uppercase and lowercase letters: YARD SAlE

David…please make the following curse into a t-shirt:

Kern in Helvetica!

During an online messenger conversation, my friend Will switched his typeface on me. I told him to “Go to Helvetica!”. He snapped back with a quick and clever “Kern in Helvetica!” and I’ve been laughing about it ever since. I’m even writing a song about it. So, an accompanying t-shirt would be nice.


how is it even possible to kern “busy” into “lousy” i can understand the other way around but simply cannot grasp how someone could see the word busy and say, “hey some jerk put that “l” and that “o” too close, I know what to do”, that man should be shot.
And isn’t it a problem with uppercase I’s and lower case l’s

Very very clever! I will adopt this term! :)

Perfect timing to commemorate the second anniversary of your web log.

(Or should that read “web bg”?)

This is absolutely THE best way to explain this phenomenon. I just adopted this word.

In the hopes that this becomes a widely recognized new word, I sent a link to all my graphic designer friends. They found it brilliant.

Great stuff :-)

For those commenting on the lowercase L phenomenon, you’ll be wanting to look at lowercaseL.blogspot.com

BTW, “spum” (Jaime, 10:59) would be a great word for p*rn spam.

Here’s another excellent, naughty keming example:

Genious. Adopted!

one of the genious ideas of the century..

@ “J” (nice name, by the way. exotic.) who said: “This is the gayest thing I have ever seen. Go find a friend”

I think it’s safe to say that David has friends all over the place because of this post. Am I right?

And J, you’re obviously lonely enough to coment on how “gay” this is, so why don’t you take your own advice?

Hilarious. Comic Genius.

Thought I’d pop in to share the related idea I had: “cornpensation”, defined here as “the act of making mental adjustment for keming that doesn’t actually exist”.

Because I’ve done it several times myself, and needed a word to describe it.

I think the whole idea is a red heming…but it just may fly.

Just spotted this in an OCR version of Fahrenheit 451:

“I’m a fireman. I can bum you!”

I think this works best when set in Goudy Modem.

The p e n i s mightier than the sword.

I got in a lot of trouble one time as a kid. I saw the name Theodore J. Flicker in the credits for Barney Miller, and I burst out, “Oh, my God, Ma, that guy’s name is….”

I got in a lot of trouble one time when I was young. When I say the poorly kerned name THEODORE J. FLICKER scroll by int eh credits for Barney Miller, I said, “Oh, my God, Ma, that guy’s name is….”

I got in a lot of trouble one time when I was young. When I saw the poorly kerned name THEODORE J. FLICKER scroll by in the credits for Barney Miller, I said, “Oh, my God, Ma, that guy’s name is….”

anyone know who came up with this?

I would like to use it on a business card possibly because my last name is KERN and I am pursuing graphic design.

Great example of Keming:

Really kills what is already a lame joke. Awful.

Keming garners “gamers” when kerning “garners.”

I made a website celebrating the horrible keming you can find on the web: fuckyeahkeming.com, check it out and let me know if you have additions :)

I have to say, this is brilliant!