Defending Nimrod, the typeface, the man


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Some readers who found the name of our new text typeface, Nimrod, a little goofy may be better steeped in Looney Toons than in Genesis.

Although Nimrod, the Biblical figure, has been historically synonymous with great hunter, a couple of generations of Americans seem to know it better as synonymous with dork.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Nimrod took on a derogatory slang meaning from no less a literary figure than Bugs Bunny. "The wily Bugs used the term in its original sense to mock the dithering hunter Elmer Fudd, whom he called a 'poor little Nimrod'," says American Heritage. Over time, the hunter meaning was supplanted by the dorky one.

Nimrod is said to have been a grandson or great-grandson of Noah who established in Mesopotamia the first recorded empire, built the cities of Babylon and Ninevah, and ruled as the Bible's first despot. But he was reputed to have been a renowned hunter and was remembered that way?#34;at least until Bugs' impact on Biblical history.

Britain's Royal Air Force, whom few would call doofuses, named its formidable maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft the Nimrod.

The Watersmeet School in Watersmeet, Mich., apparently not concerned about appearing to be jerks, have proudly fielded teams nicknamed the Nimrods since 1904.

Unfazed by being seen as literary twits or twerps, the distinguished literary magazine, Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, still publishes at the University of Tulsa.

A typeface may be named for almost anything?#34;its designer (Bodoni, for example), its application (Primer), a publication (Times for the Times of London), a romantic notion (Olympian). Anything goes. Type designer Robin Nicholas chose the name of the mighty hunter when he created Nimrod for the Monotype Corp. in 1980 as one of the new designs for the burgeoning technology of digital typesetting. Designers consider its sturdy unfussiness and high legibility the qualities that have made it a leading choice for newspaper text.

As Bugs would say: "D-D-D-Dat's all folks..."

Phillip Ritzenberg
New York

Phillip Ritzenberg crafted the redesign of Wednesday Journal.

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