Em and En are real words (and you can use them in Scrabble)

Scrabble board with the blocks spelling out Em and En

That’s not all the printing industry has contributed to the common phrases we use today. 


Do you feel ‘Out of sorts’?

If you were a printer using the moveable type system developed by Johannes Gutenburg, a letter was referred as a ‘sort’. If you were ‘out of sorts’ you had run out of a letter you needed.

Or the phrase ‘he dissed me’?

One of the most hated jobs was to distribute, or dis, the type, back into the case. The job was often given to an apprentice compositor.

Ever been told to ‘Mind your Ps and Qs’?

Historically, blocks of type had to be set upside down and backwards. So a typesetter had to be careful to use the right letter, or receive a nasty surprise when the (at the time, very expensive) paper had to be thrown out because an incorrect letter had been selected.

So next time you have a few too many letter ‘E’s, remember those ems and ens. 

PS. What exactly are ems and ens?

An em is the width of an uppercase letter M, an en is the width of the capitol letter N.

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