Superscript and Subscript Characters in General Use

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at
Wed Jan 4 06:43:50 CST 2017

Linguistically, it is an apostrophe, even if it's represented by a single
quote (same as in French), because the "letter apostrophe" is not used
(that letter apostrohpe was encoded in Unicode very late and there's no
desire to change the mappings in French or Scottish). If you think it is a
substitute only because the very superficial apparence of that superscript
c, I think it is just a hack used by some old printer that did not have
that letter in their case box. In 1798 printing a book was expensive and
metal fonts were also costly, and writers acepted some minor transforms of
their manuscript by the printer (and frequent typos as well). Later
reeditions frequently correct these typos.

Note that in French the right single quote is normally not used at all as a
quotation mark, and when it appears between two letters it is unambiguously
an apostrophe. I think the letter apostrophe was addede later in Unicode
only for English to allow distrinctions. But I've rarely seen used. Later
it was used as a substitute for a glottal stop in some
Polynesian/Melanesian languages but the actual character was encoded and is
preferable (its glyph is distinctive).

2017-01-04 12:44 GMT+01:00 John W Kennedy <john.w.kennedy at>:

> No it isn’t. It isn’t an apostrophe; it’s a left single quote, although
> some modern printers mistakenly suppose it to be an apostrophe, and
> substitute one. And it isn’t an elision; it’s meant as a substitute glyph
> for a superscript c. (I confess that, not being from Scotland, I thought it
> to be an elision for over fifty years, but when I was preparing a
> transcription of William Dunlap’s “André: a Tragedy in Five Acts” [New
> York, 1798], in which a character named “M‘Donald” plays a major role, I
> looked into the matter, and was surprised to learn the truth.)
> On Jan 4, 2017, at 3:12 AM, Philippe Verdy <verdy_p at> wrote:
> This is the traditional use of the apostrophe to be used to marc an
> elision at end of words. Nothing new.
> 2017-01-04 6:36 GMT+01:00 John W Kennedy <john.w.kennedy at>:
>> > On Jan 3, 2017, at 10:20 PM, Asmus Freytag <asmusf at>
>> wrote:
>> >
>> > On 1/3/2017 4:24 PM, Marcel Schneider wrote:
>> >> On Tue, 3 Jan 2017 09:31:42 +0100, Christoph Päper wrote:
>> >>
>> >>>> Among the possibilities, you include Unicode subscripts.
>> >>> Just for the sake of completeness.
>> >> This tends to conclude that preformatted subscripts are really an
>> option here.
>> >
>> > Not so. You yourself quote this statement:
>> >
>> > | Superscript modifier letters are intended for cases where the letters
>> carry
>> > | a specific meaning, as in phonetic transcription systems, and are not
>> > | a substitute for generic styling mechanisms for superscripting of
>> text,
>> > | as for footnotes, mathematical and chemical expressions, and the like.
>> >
>> > It is clear that the uses that you advocate go against this intent.
>> >
>> > Therefore, your conclusion that this is "an option" is nothing more
>> than a very personal
>> > opinion on your part (and one that many people here would consider
>> misguided if
>> > presented as general recommendation).
>> >
>> > A./
>> As long as this is being discussed, what about the historic practice of
>> using M‘ (nowadays often seen as M’ instead) in Scottish names—e.g.,
>> M‘Donald—as a typographic substitute for M(superscript c)?
>> --
>> John W Kennedy
>> Having switched to a Mac in disgust at Microsoft's combination of
>> incompetence and criminality.
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