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Lorem Ipsum

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Seen the words above before? Ever wondered where they came from? What they mean? Or perhaps they're all Greek to you?

Although the paragraph above contains recognisable Latin words, they don't seem to add up to anything, and some are just nonsense - there's no Latin word lorem, for instance. Lorem ipsum is the beginning of a pseudo-Latin passage commonly used as placeholder text when a graphic designer dummies up a page layout. It's intended to show how the page will look before the copy is available. Nonsense filler like this is known, somewhat incongruously, as 'greeking', presumably because 'It's Greek to me'. It was available for many years on adhesive sheets in different sizes and typefaces from a company called Letraset. In pre-desktop publishing (DTP) days, a designer would cut the required amount of text out with a knife and stick it on the page.

When DTP was introduced, Aldus included Lorem ipsum in its PageMaker software (now produced by Adobe). Macromedia includes it in the sample pages and templates supplied with its Dreamweaver Web publishing software, and a very popular extension to the program is available on the Dreamweaver Exchange that enables designers to create mock-up Web pages using Lorem ipsum.

So why did Letraset include this particular passage as filler? It seems likely that someone found an old (probably 16th Century) type specimen book and copied it from there. Some printer in the 1500s had taken a book that he had printed and scrambled the text to produce a sample of his work to show to possible customers.

What book was the source? Lorem ipsum is part of De Finibus, Bonorum et Malorum1 a treatise on the theory of ethics written by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-45 BC). The original contains the text:

Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit2

So, Cicero's text has come down to us from two thousand years ago after being garbled by a printer five hundred years ago, and is still in use in design shops across the world. Wonder what the old boy would think of that?

You can create your own Lorem ipsum text online at Lorem Ipsum.

1'On the Ends [of ethical systems], Good and Bad'.2'There is no one who loves pain itself, searches for it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain'.

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