Did you know that the German language had a new addition to the alphabet last year? I keep hearing from colleagues that they have overslept this semi-revolutionary reform, and I just have to save the rest of you from unforgivable shame.
The German ß
Up until recently, the German-only letter ß ("Eszett" or "scharfes S") only existed in lower case. Since the ß can never appear at the beginning of the word, there had never been a pressing need for a capital version. In capitalized words, the Eszett had simply been replaced by "SS". Therefore, the word "schießen" (to shoot) used to be transformed into "SCHIESSEN". By the way, "SCHIEßEN" has always been wrong.
The Eszett is usually pronounced as a stronger version of S. In official papers like passports where names are printed in CAPS, this has occasionally led to confusions. The official officer could never be sure whether your name was "Messner" (pronounced "Messna") or "Meßner" (pronounced something like "Mehsna"). What a horror scenario that must have been.
But since of June 29, 2017, Frau Meßner shall never be taken for Frau Messner ever again, for her savior has arrived. I present you the ẞ!
The letter ß seems to be a ligature (a letter connection) of the letters sz. This surely would explain its name "Eszett". This German letter is used in all German-speaking countries except Switzerland (who ditched the ß during the 1930s) and Liechtenstein.
ß vs. ss
There is no proper strict rule regarding when we should use s or ß. However, as a general rule you can say that the ß is used when it appears before a long consonant, e.g. "Straße" (street) or "Kloß" (yummy German potato dumpling).
The ss is usually used when the preceding consonant is short, e.g. in "Kuss" (kiss) or "Rasse" (race).
What does this change mean for German translators and writers?
For translators and writers this means the obvious: we should produce up-to-date work and replace any occurrences of SS with ẞ.
How does the new German letter affect game developers and translation clients?
For translation clients and game developers who want to localize their content into German this means that you might have to add this letter to your supported characters and make sure that it converts correctly when you display words in CAPS without telling your translator (which you should never do).
Did we really need the ẞ?
I‘ve gotten so used to using SS when writing in CAPS that I've never seen the need to give our ß a big brother. The only thing that makes me want to pick out my eyes is when I see it replaced by a small letter.
But I would love if the capital eszett didn't look so damn bold on some fonts such as my own website's. For the record, I didn't put it in bold even once in the whole article. This stylistic flaw is a bit of a bummer. In other places, such as Word, it looks perfectly fine.
How to produce the ẞ on your keyboard
Click on the flag next to the date, then go to Open Keyboard Preferences… --> Text --> +
Paste the ẞ into the With field and then add a key combination into the Replace field that will appear as a ẞ.
Windows – older keyboards:
[Shift] + [Alt Gr] + [ß]
Windows – newer keyboards:
[Alt Gr] + [H]
Beware—this doesn't seem to work just anywhere. On my Mac, I cannot make it work in Word while it works just fine on my email clients and website.
On my Windows 7 workstation, the [Alt Gr] + [H] combination works perfectly in MemoQ, but not in Office or the browser.
Thanks for sharing <3