Visit Sourcetype here.





one of the Orlando Museum of Art. More about the affair here.


Welcome to Agloe.





Wales might produce long names, but Germany ain’t too lazy either. With a grammatical system allowing for seemingly endless adding of words together to form new expressions, some gems appear from time to time. One came in a recent letter to a POST team member living in Germany, informing her of the upcoming Kurzfristenenergieversorgungssicherungsmaßnahmenverordning (a word that promptly beat the previous record holder “Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung” among personal encounters with true frankenwords).


Image borrowed from this The Guardian article.



Rudeness galore


Dive into the full list of placeholder names from around the world here.




Dive into Sourcetype.


The Guardian reported on the incident here.



Chapter 2: Self
September 2022
Words by Bethany Rigby

In order to understand the self, you need to know what to call it. From the Tangle in Oslo, Laurenz Brunner takes us on an onomastic journey.

We begin in 11th century Germany, with Laurenz Brunner walking us through a nomenclature self-portait; from his surname to the subject of his study; typography. {Brunner – Brunne – Spring or Source – Fountain – Font – Source Type} This can be described as an example of an Aptronym; the occurrence of when a person’s name suggests their profession. Nearby, we then encounter homographs, where two names are the same but have different meanings and the often frustrating contemporary connections that evolve, usually at the financial expense of their owners. In a similar area; we hear of pseudonyms– a ficticious name or alias that differs from the user’s true name, utilising intentional obscurity to protect anonymity.

Our next stop is in Florida, at the Orlando Museum of Art, where typographic forensics were employed to question the authenticity of 25 newly discovered Basquiat paintings. It was noticed that on the back of one painting, a FedEx instruction read “Align top of FedEx Shipping Label here” in a font that was not in use until 1994- six years after Basquiat’s death. It could be said that this vital evidence resembles a “printer trap”. Such traps were deliberate errors used in documents to prove illicit reproduction, as a rookie forger would inevitably miss the error and fail to copy it into a replica document. A common printer trap was the replacement of letter ‘p’ with an inverted ‘d’. At this point in our onomastic journey we find ourselves in the small town of Agloe, New York, once invented as a trap by the General Drafting Company in 1948 to catch cartographic copycats, it could in fact be found on Google Maps until 2014. This fictional town is inhabited by real people, who have embraced the beautiful irony of their place of residence, selling merchandise and erecting signs. In Agloe, fiction becomes reality, one place where perhaps the map does in fact precede the territory. In response to a question to whether Algoe really exists, one resident stated “What is your definition of real? If something exists in enough minds, it’s real”.

We next fly halfway around the world to Abu Dhabi, where from the airplane window we can spot the world’s largest name written in the sand, 2 mile letters spelling out “HAMAD” (it can even be seen from space), with letter stems acting as conduits for seawater. Commissioned by Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan – a fan of all things super-sized including the world’s largest scale replica of a Willys MB U.S. Army jeep and a Mercedes sedan with monster-truck wheels-  the letters were a giant equivalent of writing your name in the sand at the beach, until they were deleted in June 2012.

In considering this geographical signature, Brunner contemplates the gravitas associated with “big” names- not only in physical size, but also length (such as the welsh town Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch); and how this generates infamy and value to the object or person that name denotes due to the rarity of words of such length occurrence in language. In stark contrast, Brunner gives some tribute to small names, or lil’ names to be more precise, that number almost 3,000. 

In thinking of the origins attaching value to names, and therefore the origins of brand names- our fifth destination is Texas, USA, the cattle capital of the world and the use of cattle branding. Cattle branding is a practice originating in Egypt around 4000 years ago and is one of the earliest design devices used to indicate ownership. Typographical ‘logos’ are burnt into cow hide using heated irons, and if a cow was rustled (stolen) by neighbouring farmers, these unique letterforms were edited in order to disguise the original cattle brand and evade detection. Brunner deftly parallels this to contemporary territorial football graffiti edits 5000 miles away in Zurich, Switzerland, and also to typographic manipulation of vehicle registration plates in order to evade identification by traffic cameras. On the subject of registration plates, the UK government has a list of banned alpha-numerical name configurations for British vehicles (image).

If forbidden names are placed on one end of an axis, then at the opposite end you would find generic names, or placeholder names. Names to give those that are unnamable. In the US, these are John and Jane Doe or Ola and Kari Nordmann in Norway, or Jean and Pierre Dupont if in France. Generic names occurring within the context of products and trademarking is a social phenomena where here is a colloquial evolution of some brand names into genericised household names that go on to denote an entire genre (such as jacuzzi, hoover, thermos, frisbee and aspirin to name a few). In US law, the process of a brand becoming genericised invalidates the brand’s trademark status in law- usually against the intentions of the trademark’s owner. Jeep, Band-Aid and Xerox are just a few companies that have lost the trademark status of their name.

Moving from instant recognisability to downright illegibility (a subject of personal fascination to Brunner) we enter the United States’ Treasury Secretary’s office in 2013, where Jack Lew is forced to change his signature that appears on the US dollar bills from a uniquely loopy design to a more traditional scrawl following a unanimous opposition vote by Republicans. 

But what about names that must remain intentionally obscured? Unlike some brands or celebrities, many subcultures and groups don’t want to be identified at all. In South Africa, we find an instance of a ‘gore grind’ band with a name too rude to repeat here, but we can abbreviate it to XavlegbmaofffassssitimiwoamndutroabcwapwaeiippohfffX. This band disguises its name within immensely complex metallic lettering, a technique they use to remain completely unrecognisable. Brunner also points to another example of an intentionally hidden name in Bangkok, where Thai Airlines (other airlines have also done this) chose to redact their logo from the side of an aeroplane after a crash in order to limit PR fallout and subsequent damage to their brand.

For the final point in our journey we returned to the European continent in the year 2022. In Ukraine, home of one of Source Type’s collaborators who has documented the phenomena where – with encouragement from the ukrainian government- brave local residents removed, redacted and edited road and transport signs to disrupt the navigation of Russian invaders.

Further thinking on names, typography and graphics from Laurenz Brunner and many other brilliant minds can be found on the editorial platform: Source Type.

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