lorem ipsum…

This strange Latin, or seemingly pseudo-Latin, phrase is used in the printing industry as a place holder for text. It is a meaningless passage used to demonstrate what a printed page will look like without the reader being distracted by the content.

The full passage, as it is often rendered, reads:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

But what, if anything, does it mean? It is a corrupted extract from Cicero’s de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (The Extremes of Good and Evil) written in 45 B.C. Cicero’s actual words and a translation follow. Note that among other errors, the typesetter’s version begins not only in mid-sentence, but also in the middle of the word dolorem:

Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

(Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?)

How long has this particular dummy text been around? There are claims that it can be found in 16th century printer’s samples, but no one has been able to produce documents containing the text that are anywhere near that old. The closest anyone has come is in the 1960s when the Letraset company began using it in promotional material for their products. Shortly thereafter, electronic typesetting programs, such as Aldus Pagemaker, began using it and its usage exploded. It seems unlikely that Letraset initiated the practice of using this dummy passage. It probably has been used by printers for some time, even if it does not date to the 1500s.

(Source: The Straight Dope, 16 Feb 2001)

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