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Q: Tail on a U ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   11 Comments )
Subject: Tail on a U
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: uzzz-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 01 Mar 2005 05:57 PST
Expires: 31 Mar 2005 05:57 PST
Question ID: 482836
On many fonts there are tails on the letter 'u'. What is this tail
called? Is there a correct lexigraphic term?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 01 Mar 2005 08:54 PST
I think any flourish like that on a font is known as a serif, and
fonts without the tails or other little add-ons are known as

Is that what you had in mind?

Clarification of Question by uzzz-ga on 02 Mar 2005 04:06 PST
Hello pafalafa-ga

I have been off-line for a couple of days. I appreciate your interest.
The "flourish" that I had in mind appears to be best descibed in your

Please post as the answer

Subject: Re: Tail on a U
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 02 Mar 2005 04:31 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Uzzz, it "Uzzz" with a minim, or without?

I'm glad the definition I found rang true.  Here it is again:

The upright stroke of a letter standing between the BASELINE and
HEADLINE, e.g. as in m, n, u, and i.

By the way, if you're curious to know the difference between letter
strokes like a Minim and an Apex, Arch, Ascender, Bowl, Ligature,
Serif, Stem or a Tail, have a look at another, somewhat more
comprehensive glossary, that you'll find here:

A Glossary of Paleological and Codicological Terms

This was fun...thanks.

Let me know if there's anything else you need.


search strategy:  This was tough, but eventually searching on [ serif
stroke stem (glossary OR dictionary) ] turned out to be the key.
uzzz-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
U did a fine job and this turned out to be alot of fun as well as
educational. Hope we meet again soon.

Subject: Re: Tail on a U
From: markj-ga on 01 Mar 2005 08:48 PST
I suspect (but can't prove the negative proposition) that there is no
term for that tail.  Rather, it seems to fall within the definition of
the common typographic term "stem":

"stem - The upright element of a letter or character."

Proxima Software: Typographic Terms

"For lowercase u, down, curve up, and straight down for a stem."

Auburn University: Teaching Letter Recognition
Subject: Re: Tail on a U
From: nelson-ga on 01 Mar 2005 10:03 PST
I think pafalafa is right and should post as an answer.  (Markj, there
is a term for EVERYTHING.)
Subject: Re: Tail on a U
From: markj-ga on 01 Mar 2005 10:45 PST
OK, but ...  

I am under the impression that Helvetica is a "sans serif" font.  I
just ordered Word to give me a 22-point lower case "u" and, guess
what?  It had a little tail!
Subject: Re: Tail on a U
From: lauridsd-ga on 01 Mar 2005 12:43 PST
The tail is not a serif, but probably a stem.

Serifs are the stylistic adornments to the other parts of a character
of type.  A "san serif" font should only contain the features required
to make the letter / character unique and obvious.  Therefore, the
"tail" (stem) should, in theory, always be a part of the letter "u." I
would imagine, however, that some typographers have made entire fonts
without the characteristic stems as a style choice. Imagine a "u"
without a tail.
Subject: Re: Tail on a U
From: efn-ga on 01 Mar 2005 19:38 PST
I haven't been able to find an answer, but I am convinced it's not a
serif and it's not a stem, though it's part of a stem.
Subject: Re: Tail on a U
From: pafalafa-ga on 01 Mar 2005 20:22 PST
I'd say it's a minim:

The upright stroke of a letter standing between the BASELINE and
HEADLINE, e.g. as in m, n, u, and i.
Subject: markj-ga, nelson-ga,lauridsd-ga, & efn-ga
From: uzzz-ga on 02 Mar 2005 04:14 PST
Very interesting comments everyone however I am sold on pafalafa-ga's
'minim' definition. I thank you all for the discussion.


Subject: Re: Tail on a U
From: markj-ga on 02 Mar 2005 06:15 PST
Pardon my belated further contribution to this fascinating topic, but
I *think* that "minim" is a term relating to script and not
typography, to wit:

"Minims. A minim is a single downstroke of the pen. An 'i' is
therefore one minim, an 'n' or 'u' is made up of two minims, and a 'm'
three. In modern handwriting, where each letter is individually formed
and the 'i's are dotted, these letters do not cause any problems of
comprehension. But in old handwriting, particularly in cursive hands ,
where the writer was writing very quickly and possibly not forming the
joining strokes, they can be very hard to tell apart."

National Archives:UK: Palaeography
Subject: To- Markj-ga Re: Tail on a U
From: uzzz-ga on 02 Mar 2005 07:27 PST
Quite a tale about U

In my question I was looking for a word to describe the 'tail'. I had
not thought to define whether this pertained to handwriting or print.
My thinking was that  font styles are available both in typography and
in hand written script. As I had left the specifics on the 'tail' that
I sought vague, I feel that minim is an acceptable answer. Should
there be a specific typographic term for this 'tail' section of the U
I would be most happy to post a new question.

Your interest in this fascinating subject :) is most appreciated. I
hope we meet again soon.


Subject: Re: Tail on a U
From: pafalafa-ga on 02 Mar 2005 07:48 PST

I wish I had a lot more customers like you leaving ten-fold tips!

Thanks for that, and for the kind feedback as well.  This was, in
fact, a fun one to work on, and like you, I hope we have a chance to
do it again one of these days.

Subject: pafalafa-ga
From: uzzz-ga on 02 Mar 2005 09:39 PST
U are welcome. Initially I thought that this was one of those
questions that could be answered in a flash hence the $2 list price.
As we subsequentally have seen it became much more than a simple


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