Sunday, December 18, 2011

caret, or triple homonym

 Bowing to the inevitable, I take up the third and I do hope last word which has the same sound as my last two posts. I think I do know what a caret is, but as is so often the case with this blog, having to say it aloud makes me wonder whether I do have it right. I believe that a caret is that little arrow shaped mark, most often used to join things in a manuscript. I can't off the top of my head think what else it might do. I have no idea what its origins are. I don't even know if it is limited to sitting  on top of a sentence or can be turned sideways or upside down. God help me if it can because if so I will be at this all night.

Anyway, let us begin:

Okay, tempting as it is to have a do over, I pretty much have that totally wrong. Sorry, internet community readers that only skim the first paragraph here before passing on to something more scintillating. Far from meaning that a space is needed, it means that something is missing and needs to be added . It comes out of Latin carere, to lack.

Secondly, though in my mind's eye, I was seeing it above the line, like this: ˆ, it is just as likely to be used below, like this:˰ .  You can put the missing material, such as an apostrophe or a comma, under the mark, over the mark or in the margins.

A caret might also be confused with a circumflex (which means "bend around")  such as Ê, which is placed over a letter to distinguish its pronunciation in some way.

Carets actually have a lot of uses. They are used as notation in mathematics, computer programing, logic, music and social networking, and have strayed very far from their original meaning of missing. I could break it down for you, but you may as well, just go to the source.

 Perhaps the most interesting thing to me in these researches is that caret is related through this Latin origin to "caste", because in addition to meaning 'to lack', also means 'to be cut off from' or 'separated'. This incidentally is also the connection to 'castration'. Whoa.   

As Peter Rozovsky made this request, and one aspect of this was to know whether there was a keyboard command for this symbol, I will finish with these. I am not totally sure I understood his question correctly, but if you want ˰, you type 02F0 and then hit alt+X. If you want ˆ, you type the Crtl key plus the caret key over 6  and then hit the Space bar. At least this is how you do it in Windows. I don't know if this is a uniform thing or not. 


  1. Whoa, indeed! And what is this ^ thing called, love?

  2. An elementary school French teacher of mine used to call the circumflex (circonflexe in French) a petit chapeau, or little hat.

    This post about caret does me as muh good as a serving of vegetables. Thanks! =======================================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  3. What is this thing called love? Cole Porter couldn't figure that out, either.

  4. Peter, I'd have to know how much you like vegetables to know whether this is really a good thing...

  5. great post....i learnt a new word!
    umm what about karat?
    or did it have to have C as the first letter....?

  6. Thanks, Dan. If you jump back to the post carat (two back), you will find the answers to your questions. I think.

  7. hmm...yeah i tend to do that..jump in to things without looking for bad hehe

  8. Nah--I'm just glad you've taken the time to read here.

  9. Seana

    Please dont confuse me. It took me fifteen years to figure out how to do an em dash.

  10. That's nothing. It took me about forty years to learn how to type. Badly.