Something I’ve never noticed before: the flags on Observatory Hill reflect current astronomical alignments. I was most pleased to make this discovery! Here is the full moon, the Southern Cross, Jupiter, as well as Mars and Saturn, which were retrograde. I’m inclined to check out the flagpole again next week—it should look rather festive because for the first time in ten years, five  heavenly bodies will be retrograde at the same time, including Mercury, which is also about to transit the Sun.



The pilcrow is a symbol used to denote a new paragraph. In the Middle Ages, before the convention of starting a paragraph on a new line, it was used to mark a change in the train of thought. It is also known as a paragraph mark or paragraph sign, and in proofreading it indicates where a new paragraph should begin. It is a symbol that appears in many character sets, and in page layout programs such as InDesign, a pilcrow marks every carriage return and can be seen when the invisible type features are made visible.



Hat, control, uparrow, chevron, shark-fin, fang, call it what you will: the caret is a wedge-shaped mark made on written or printed matter. Although the caret is used widely in ASCII and unicode, in publishing it is more commonly recognised as a proofreading mark, which is where it has its origin. In Latin, caret means ‘it lacks’, so the name describes its function as the proofreading mark that indicates the place where something — a punctuation mark, a word, a phrase — should be inserted. The mark to be inserted is generally placed within the caret and it is written below the line of text for a line-level punctuation mark such as a comma, or above the line as an inverted caret for a character such as an apostrophe.

Full stop


A full stop (or period in American English) is a punctuation mark that denotes the end of a sentence. The symbol itself derives from Aristophanes of Byzantium who invented a system of punctuation where the height of dot placement determined meaning of a thought or sentence. Until quite recently full stops were commonly used after initials or titles, but punctuation fashions change, and A. A. Milne is now AA Milne, and Mr. and Mrs. are plain old Mr and Mrs (or Ms, more likely). As for a full stop after a single word, I have no explanation, but there is enough of it around on buildings of the late 1800s, especially banks, hotels and civic buildings, that I can only surmise that it was the style of the times.


In typography, an asterism is a symbol consisting of three asterisks placed in a triangle. Its function is to denote a break in the text; a break that is more than a paragraph, less than a chapter. Breaking text in this way is commonplace, but the use of the asterism to indicate it is rare. More prevalent is the use of a line space or a single asterisk. Or a dinkus, but that’s for another day.