The thinking condom’s typeface

On Facebook recently, a plaintive scream from Tom Meadows (reproduced here exactly as in the original):

PLEASE LATEX LET ME BE FREE OF THIS PROBLEM WHY ARE YOU SO CRUEL

Typing the whole thing in ALL CAPS introduced an ambiguity that Meadows and his readers then exploited for playful purposes. The ambiguity:

reader EK: I feel like a latex problem is very different from a LaTeX problem

Tom Meadows: I have a latex/LaTeX merger – my condoms are now nicely typeset

(In reproducing material from the FB discussion, I cite commenters EK and OB by their initials, because I’m not sure of the privacy status of their postings. I use my own name of course, and also Tom Meadows’s, given his FB self-description: “young linguist looking for slim but powerful syntactic theory *turn-ons: fun in the verbal domain*”).

Lexical background.

latex — my definition — is a milky fluid from plants, the source of rubber; its synthetic polymer analogue; or this polymer analogue conceived of as the source of some specific product (latex paint, latex condom, latex glove)

LaTeX … is a document preparation system. When writing, the writer uses plain text as opposed to the formatted text found in WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) word processors like Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer and Apple Pages. The writer uses markup tagging conventions to define the general structure of a document (such as article, book, and letter), to stylise text throughout a document (such as bold and italics), and to add citations and cross-references. (Wikipedia link)

LATEX play. Meadows’s comment above is the link to some joking about condoms and their typefaces

[Tom Meadows I have a latex/LaTeX merger – my condoms are now nicely typeset]

Arnold Zwicky: Well, it’s very important to use an excellent typeface on your condoms: bodily cavities are notoriously passionate about typeface choices and have been known to reject condoms printed with typefaces they consider to be ugly or unsuitable.

OB: Durex market them as ribbed and dotted, however we all know that what they’re talking about is a condom with serifs which help heighten the pleasure for both parties as well as being easier to understand quickly. The ultra smooth ones are sans serif and can be more difficult to understand if used quickly.

In earlier postings about pornstar dildos and flesh-colored dildos (for various shades of flesh), I stressed that preferences for (or aversions to) particular sextoys in these families were matters of the psychology of their users — since the sexcavities themselves, lacking the perceptual apparatus to judge dildos (even in the light), had no opinions on the subject. But I mght have spoken too hastily, since it now seems that sexcavities could be quite judgmental about typefaces on condoms within them. It may be that we are now seeing evidence for some form of sexcavital intelligence, possibly akin to the enteric nervous system, the ‘little brain’ in our guts.

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