(Do)lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum
Lorem Ipsum text by designer Steph Borel.

At a party last night someone asked what the Lorem Ipsum dummy text passage actually means, and despite studying latin for years (anything to get out of math), and despite seeing this dummy text all the time, I realized I had no idea. Later I realized why its latin is so confusing; it’s garbled thanks to the removal of a number of words from the original 45 B.C. passage by Cicero (at bottom). The strangest part is that I never saw that the nonsense word lorem is actually an amputation of the latin word dolorem, meaning pain.

Garbled or not, the excerpt from Cicero has been used by typographers and typesetters as dummy text since the 1500s. The scrambling of the text may have happened in the early part of the 20th C. Letraset perpetuated the scrambled text in the 60s and it was picked up by the Aldus Corporation in its Aldus Pagemaker program in the 80s. And it’s now everywhere.

What is the meaning of the original text we’ve been using, in one form or another, for half a millennium? In short, it’s the idea that while pain is never sought out for itself,  we must sometimes suffer pain or defer pleasure in order to gain future advantage or satisfaction. But why this particular passage from Cicero and not something else? Were typesetters looking to justify their occupational aches and pains? It’s just interesting that this text should have entered common usage at the dawn of the modern age, when the idea of self-sacrifice & work ethic required for economic accumulation really made liftoff. That’s either a stretch or it isn’t, who’s to say.

(Do)lorem ipsum: pain itself.

This account at lipsum.com is also interesting.


Via Wikipedia, the original text, the highlighted excerpted text, and the translation:

The original version (with the excerpted items highlighted) from Cicero’s De finibus bonorum et malorum or The Purposes of Good and Evil…

[32] Sed ut perspiciatis, unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam eaque ipsa, quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt, explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos, qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt, neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci[ng] velit, sed quia non numquam [do] eius modi tempora inci[di]dunt, ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit, qui in ea voluptate velit esse, quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum, qui dolorem eum fugiat, quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

[33] At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus, qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti, quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint, obcaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa, qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga. Et harum quidem rerum facilis est et expedita distinctio. Nam libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est eligendi optio, cumque nihil impedit, quo minus id, quod maxime placeat, facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellendus. Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet, ut et voluptates repudiandae sint et molestiae non recusandae. Itaque earum rerum hic tenetur a sapiente delectus, ut aut reiciendis voluptatibus maiores alias consequatur aut perferendis doloribus asperiores repellat…

H. Rackham’s 1914 translation with the major source of lorem ipsum highlighted:

[32] But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing of a pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

[33] On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.

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