kem'-ing, n.

   The result of improper kerning. 


This is a new typography term proposed by David Friedman on his website Ironic Sans ( on or about Feb 19, 2008.

Mr. Friedman certainly seems to have struck a nerve, as citations of his neologism can already be found all over the internet. The keming problem is quite prevalent on internet web pages, where sans serif fonts abound and browsers are somewhat free to format text as they please.

Briefly, kerning refers to the particulars of spacing between pairs of letters within words so that space is not wasted and words appear as coherent and aesthetic units, making reading easier.  A kerned font layout is also known as proportional spacing, in contrast to the fixed spacing of a so-called 'typewriter' or 'monospace' font, such as  Courier. The above definition of keming is in a monospace font.

The inspiration for this brilliantly self-referential term is, of course, when 'r' and 'n' are placed so near to each other that they appear to be an 'm'. Other letter combinations sometimes subject to keming are 'o' and 'l' or 'c' and 'l' appearing as 'd', or 'l' and 'o' appearing as 'b', though these happen more often when printer drivers have problems with fonts and/or word processing programs.

MajorGeneralPanic points out that there is a complementary issue in OCR systems where the software can interpret a 'd' as 'c' and 'l', resulting in 'downturn' being changed into 'clownturn', for example.


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