Oct 11 2009
You’re probably familiar with Helvetica Neue. On the Mac, it’s even one of the built-in System fonts. It’s a commonly-used font — and commonly mispronounced.
It’s not “Helvetica Nu.” It’s “Helvetica Noy-yeh.” Sparked by my teenage love of German cars and a stint in high-school German classes, I long ago learned to love the Germanic economy of language. I always considered it wasteful that the French would put a perfectly good “T” at the end of a word, and then not pronounce it. The Germans, however, don’t waste letters. Porsche is pronounced “Porsh-eh,” not “Porsh.” It’s Noy-yeh, not Nu.
This has been a public service announcement
At first glance, you may have read this as “Hotel HelvetiCa,” just because we’re all so accustomed to the common font name. Our brains just want to fill in the “missing” C.
Helvetia was the Latin name for Switzerland in the Middle Ages. The label HELVETIA can be found on Swiss coins and postal stamps, while the abbreviation “CH” stands for “Confoederatio Helvetica,” the Latin version of “Swiss Confederation” (hence the CH sticker on Swiss cars and Switzerland’s top level internet domain, .ch.)
This is the Hotel Helvetia, in Lindau, Germany, on the beautiful Lake Bodensee.