A Font By Any Other Name

Nearly ten years ago, there was a regular article in the monthly Focus On The Family Clubhouse Magazine for children entitled “Average Boy”. Written by Bob Smiley (“as told to Bob Smiley”), the article followed the adventures of Average Boy, a rather unaverage 12-year-old who always ended up in some sort of trouble, mischief, or amusing situation. In one installment, Average Boy talked about how he made the school basketball team. In this particular game, he managed to make a good shot. When he did this, the crowd went wild, boosting his self-confidence as a basketball player. At the end of the team, his teammates give him the nickname Benedict Arnold because he shot the ball in the opposing team’s basket. Ecstatic by this newly bestowed nickname, Average Boy writes “when I grow up, I want to become just as good a person as Benedict Arnold was!” Obviously the humor here is how he did not realize who Benedict Arnold was and the bad deed he did, but for all Average Boy knew, that might have been a great man!

“But le717, what does this have to do with fonts?”

Certainly by now you have read this blog long enough to know I have a plan here, and seemingly unrelated stories such as that tie in with the plan, right?

You may be aware of the CSS serif, sans-serif, monospace, cursive, and fantasy font-family property values. These are not actual fonts but font types and categories. When you use these CSS values, you are not directly referencing a font but rather a font category your browser takes and finds the first font on your computer that matches the specified category and uses it in the page.

Last month while I was working on a project, I had set some type to use cursive has a fallback if the Google Font does not load. Well, at one point I was working on it without an internet connection. so obviously the font would not load. However, the font my browser selected was a bit of a surprise. Ready for this? Here we go. Brace yourself.

Comic Sans MS

Of all the fonts on my computer, the first font that matches the cursive category is Comic Sans MS. This font is almost universally hated, and I associate it with feelings of laughter, joking, and silliness, much like the Benny Hill theme song.

I mean, could you publish your code on GitHub and download other people’s work from there if it used Comic Sans MS everywhere?! Not I, yet that is the font Firefox would use on my computer!

Comic Sans MS on GitHub

Getting back to my introduction, Average Boy was joyous by his new nickname. To him, because he did not know who Benedict Arnold was, that name was amazing. Had he known Benedict’s other name, traitor, he would not have been so enthusiastic and likely would have turned around and called his teammates an equally as bad name (“bad” in a loose form here; they obviously would not be any slurs or cursing in a children’s magazine from Focus on the Family 😛 ). In the same way, we all hate Comic Sans. Yet we would not stop to think for a moment setting our website’s type to use cursive as a last-resort fallback font would result in visitors possibly displaying possibly the world’s most hated and cringe-worthy font.

Just like Average Boy, because we do not always know the “real name” of these generic font-family properties, we may be unknowingly but unwillingly spreading this vicious font and making it even harder to stamp out (believe it or not, there are people who think Comic Sans MS is a good looking font D: ).

Oops, did I just format that last paragraph in Comic Sans MS? 😛