The One Case Where Comic Sans Is Actually Useful

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iStock

Poking fun at Comic Sans in 2017 doesn’t show much originality. Over its 20-year history, the font has been the punchline of a practical joke, the target of a violent video game, and the subject of a campaign calling for its eradication. But a recent essay published by The Establishment argues there’s more to the typeface than its goofy appearance suggests. Comic Sans is actually one of the easiest fonts for dyslexic readers to decipher, thanks in large part to many of the same reasons it’s mocked by designers.

Dyslexia makes it hard for people with the disorder to interpret the text in front of them. Telling certain letters apart can be a challenge, especially when a typeface recycles the same handful of shapes over and over again. Comic Sans is notorious for its inconsistent form, and that’s why it’s a favorite among dyslexic readers. Describing the experience of her dyslexic sister, Lauren Hudgins writes for The Establishment:

The irregular shapes of the letters in Comic Sans allow her to focus on the individual parts of words. While many fonts use repeated shapes to create different letters, such as a p rotated to made a q, Comic Sans uses few repeated shapes, creating distinct letters.

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland and the British Dyslexia Association both endorse the font for its readability. Other less derided fonts recommended by the British Dyslexia Association include Arial, Veranda, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Calibri, and Trebuchet. One font you definitely won’t see praised in dyslexic communities is Times New Roman. The abundance of serifs marking the characters make the font, in Hudgins’s words, "truly villainous."

[h/t Science of Us]

How Coronavirus and 31 Other Infectious Diseases and Viruses Got Their Names

Rotavirus—from the Latin rota, for "wheel"—is named for the wheel-like appearance of its particles.
Rotavirus—from the Latin rota, for "wheel"—is named for the wheel-like appearance of its particles.
Dr_Microbe/iStock via Getty Images

As you may already know, the corona in coronavirus has no relation to a certain refreshing beer often served with a slice of lime. Corōna means “crown” in Latin—and Spanish and Italian, too—and virologists chose it in 1968 to describe the group of viruses characterized by crown-like spikes that protrude from their surfaces.

So how do other viruses and diseases get their names? Based on the infographic below, created by Adam Aleksic for his website, The Etymology Nerd, there isn’t just one way. Some, like the coronavirus, are named for how they look under a microscope. The rota in rotavirus, for example, which means “wheel” in Latin, reflects the virus’s wheel-like appearance when viewed beneath an electron microscope.

Others are named after the locations where they were discovered or studied. In 1947, scientists named a newly identified mosquito-borne virus after Uganda’s Zika Forest. In 1977, Yale researchers investigating a string of pediatric arthritis cases in the town of Lyme, Connecticut, started referring to the illness as “Lyme arthritis.” Later, the name was modified to “Lyme disease” when scientists realized patients were exhibiting other symptoms, too.

Still others are characterized by the symptoms they cause. People with tetanus—from the Greek tetanos, for “tension”—usually experience muscle stiffness, and the skin of yellow fever sufferers often takes on a yellow tint due to jaundice.

Find out the origins of malaria, measles, and more below. And follow The Etymology Nerd on Instagram for more fascinating etymological explanations.

etymology nerd infectious disease names infographic
Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of Latin in this infographic.

What Makes a Hotel Breakfast 'Continental'?

Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
tashka2000/iStock via Getty Images

The continental breakfast, which is typically made up of pastries, fruit, and coffee, is often advertised by hotels as a free perk for guests. But why is it called continental, and why don’t patrons get some eggs and bacon along with it?

The term dates back to 19th century Britain, where residents referred to mainland Europe as “the continent.” Breakfast in this region was usually something light, whereas an English or American breakfast incorporated meat, beans, and other “heavy” menu options.

American hotels that wanted to appeal to European travelers began advertising “continental breakfasts” as a kind of flashing neon sign to indicate guests wouldn’t be limited to American breakfast fare that they found unappealing. The strategy was ideal for hotels, which saved money by offering some muffins, fruit, and coffee and calling it a day.

That affordability as well as convenience—pastries and fruit are shelf-stable, requiring no heat or refrigeration to maintain food safety—is a big reason continental breakfasts have endured. It’s also a carryover from the hybrid model of hotel pricing, where American hotels typically folded the cost of meals into one bill and European hotels billed for food separately. By offering a continental breakfast, guests got the best of both worlds. And while Americans were initially aghast at the lack of sausages and pancakes on offer, they’ve since come around to the appeal of a muffin and some orange juice to get their travel day started.

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