Friday, June 10, 2005


Greek Text in Blogger

A few days ago, I confessed that I didn't know how to enter Greek text in Blogger. Justin Grunau comes to the rescue with some very useful advice in an email:

It’s actually very easy to enter Greek polytonic text; this site for instance has a very useful tool if you know beta code, which is an incredibly easy way of representing polytonic Greek. This is what I got so far in about one minute’s worth of inputting:

ὤ Γρίπε, Γρίπε, πλεῖστα πάγιδων σχήματα
ἴδοι τις ἄν πεπέγμεν ἐν θνήτων βίῳ,
καὶ πλεῖστ' ἐπ' αὐτοῖς δελέαθ', ὧν ἐπιθύμια
ὀρεγόμενος τις ἔν κακοῖς ἁλίσκεται

(This won’t display for you properly if you don’t have a Unicode font on your system or if yahoo strips out the formatting of this email.)

I don’t know if I got all the breathings and accents correctly; some of the words I don’t know and I didn’t take the time to look them up. The Latin made it look for instance that by “bio” you meant an omega with iota subscript, though in that case I don’t know why thneton isn’t in the same case. But I didn’t take much time to try to understand either the Latin or Greek texts so I may well be wrong.

This is the beta code you would have to enter in that inputter for the first line:

w)/ Gri/pe, Gri/pe, plei=sta pa/gidon sch/meta

The Perseus project has more documentation on beta code.

It’s then trivial to copy/paste the resulting text into your blog.

Now. You have to have a font with the “Greek Extended” codepage included (there are many sites for getting them: here is one) of course, and so would your readers, too. To those who do not have such fonts, the precomposed characters with accents and/or breathings and/or subscripts on them will show up as little boxes.

The other problem is the Blogger template itself. The Blogger template has a stylesheet that picks the fonts. In Firefox or Mozilla this is not a problem as long as you have set up your browser to prefer a fully-loaded Unicode font to one of the ones listed in your Blogger template. Internet Explorer is a harder nut to crack: although I set my “Latin-based” font to be “Arial Unicode MS” which has most Greek polytonic forms, this does not override the setting in the Template style sheet when you display the page. If you want people using MSIE to see your Greek as Greek, you will have to put a font that supports Greek polytonic ahead of the other fonts in your template’s stylesheet. I picked Arial Unicode MS which most people have anyway and since your template already uses a sans-serif font it will work well for you.

Plus, there are LOTS and LOTS of websites about Unicode support for Polytonic Greek. Sites that let you compare different fonts to see whether they cover all the codepoints (e.g. there are lots of unusual ones like lunate sigma and various forms of koppa and so forth). Currently there is no font that covers EVERY single code point properly, but they pretty much all cover the basic polytonic code points (with precomposed characters for all the various combinations of accents and breathings).

A couple of minor clarifications: (1) I didn't transliterate Macaulay's Greek -- the Gutenberg folks did. (2) In the phrase en thneton bio, bio is dative singular and thneton is genitive plural (in the life of mortals). I changed some omicrons to omegas in Justin's Greek, using the tool he suggested -- just click on "Greek Letters" and a keyboard appears, from which you can select the letters you want just by clicking on them.

I haven't yet changed my Blogger template. The Greek looks fine when viewed with the Firefox browser, but I see the funny boxes with Internet Explorer. Yet another reason to renounce forever Bill Gates, his pomps and works.

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