Did you know there were two versions of the lowercase letter g?
There is the one we typically write, with an open hook to the left. Then there’s the typeset version with a curly tail that appears in books, newspapers, product labels and other printed materials.
Didn’t realize that? You’re not alone.
Most people didn’t know there were two versions, a study by Johns Hopkins University found. The results appeared this week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance.
The typeset version — the “looptail g” is the one most people didn’t recognize. When researchers asked people to write that version, they could not.
“We would say: ‘There’re two forms of g. Can you write them?’ And people would look at us and just stare for a moment, because they had no idea,” Kimberly Wong, a junior undergraduate at Johns Hopkins, said in a statement. “Once you really nudged them on, insisting there are two types of g, some would still insist there is no second g.”
The version that everyone learns to write seemed to stick in people’s head.
Also as part of the study, the researchers asked 25 people to identify the correct looptail g. Only seven got it right.
“We think that if we look at something enough, especially if we have to pay attention to its shape as we do during reading, then we would know what it looks like, but our results suggest that’s not always the case,” said Michael McCloskey, a Hopkins professor of cognitive science and the study’s senior author said in a statement.
“What we think may be happening here is that we learn the shapes of most letters in part because we have to write them in school,” he said. “‘Looptail g’ is something we’re never taught to write, so we may not learn its shape as well.”