You stay away from your local Waitrose for a fortnight and what do they go and do? Get rid of all the serifs!

Now, for those of you who may not know exactly what a serif is, please allow me to indulge in some exposition. You are in safe hands: I am a pedagogue. According to The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, a serif is "a slight projection finishing off a stroke of a letter." If you compare a capital T typed in a serif font (such as Times New Roman) with a T typed in a sans-serif font (such as Arial) you will see that the former features tiny, tooth-like protrusions whereas the latter does not. Each protrusion is known as a serif. End of lesson.

Of course, the demure little serif has been disappearing for a long time, so this lament doesn't exactly place me at the cutting edge of developments in popular culture. (Far from it! Yet again, I find myself with the shavings at the bottom of a black bag being taken away by loud men early on a Tuesday morning.) However, I had hoped that Waitrose - the only supermarket where you can buy fresh baklava from sales assistants able to tell you exactly what baklava is; the only supermarket which isn't lit like an Eastern European Lada factory circa 1977; the only supermarket where the words 'fewer' and 'less' are used properly - would dare to stick out, as it were, and remain faithful to the serif. But no. First it was the logo on the bags, then the logo on the shop fronts and now even the internal signs (you know the ones: 'FRUIT', 'DAIRY' etc.) have lost their dentures.

What does all this amount to? Well, I'm not entirely sure, (which isn't a problem, because this site contains mere ramblings, after all), although it does make me wonder if I shouldn't have gone into a career in design so that I could make 20K by telling people to remove little notches from their logos. But I would've been a conscientious design consultant, because I would've told all my clients to store their serifs in a safe place for the inevitable day when they become fashionable again. Or maybe Waitrose could have scored major brownie points with their olive-and-bruschetta-eating clients by proclaiming that instead of fiddlings with fonts, they'd spent 20K on building luxury coops for the producers of their free-range eggs... or something...

I don't know quite why this has affected me as much as it has. I almost feel moved to write an Ode To Serifs Lost. Maybe I take it as yet another worrying sign that our culture places excessive importance on all things new. I guess youth has always been something of an envied commodity. After all, hasn't the term 'old-fashioned' carried derogatory connotations for a long time? But what happened to its more respectable counterpart: 'classical'? When was the last time something was described using that particular word? Is its disappearance indicative of our culture's complete disregard for anything post-pubescent? Surely it wasn't so long ago that the elderly were considered to be as crucial to the richness of a society as anyone else... or am I just thinking of wishful old stories in which confused youngsters sought the advice of ancient sages?

I suspect I'm reading far too much into something quite insignificant, but it does scare me... sort of. Although what worries me more is that when I told myself I ought to put my money where my mouth is and use only serif fonts on this site, I immediately started to look for reasons for why that wouldn't be such a good idea. I mean, the last thing I want is for it to look old-fashioned, right?

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