While looking at the Unicode properties (code point, script, block, UTF-8 and UTF-16 encoding, etc.) of some characters, I stumbled upon major differences between ` ("GRAVE ACCENT") and ´ ("ACUTE ACCENT"):

Name          Code point  Script  Block               UTF-8
GRAVE ACCENT  U+000060    Common  Basic Latin         60
ACUTE ACCENT  U+0000B4    Common  Latin 1 Supplement  C2 B4

It seems the ´ is not included in the block "Basic Latin" because it was not included in ASCII. What is the reason for including ` but not ´ in ASCII?

I've taken a look into RFC 20 - ASCII format for Network Interchange where it says:

Column/Row  Symbol  Name
2/7         '       Apostrophe (Closing Single Quotation Mark Acute Accent)
6/0         `       Grave Accent (Opening Single Quotation Mark)

I cannot really make sense out of this. The apostrophe and the acute accent are two quite different characters and the people writing the document most likely knew that. What do these insertions in parentheses even mean?

I've also scanned through ASA X3.4-1963 (the original document) but could not find any reasoning for including `. Is there any?

  • 1
    I suspect the intention was the apostrophes and closing single quotes would look identical to the acute accent (all 3 would be angled). That kind of makes sense when you consider the pair of angled open/close single quotes. But, as you have noticed, in practice people preferred fonts with a straight single quote/apostrophe. Just a guess. – MetaFight Jan 15 '15 at 23:33
  • Yes back in the day of ascii there were not enough bits for all the characters, so the closing-quote and apostrophe where the same character. The even quote was a separate character. Now the apostrophe is not a quote character. – ctrl-alt-delor Jan 15 '15 at 23:47
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    Also remember that in the days when that RFC was created, most characters were displayed in 7x9 arrays of dots. – Steven Burnap Jan 15 '15 at 23:50
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    Just wanted to point out that in text format man pages putting words in quotes ``like this'' seems to be popular. On a text terminal it almost looks like opening and closing double quotes if you squint your eyes a bit. – Brandin Apr 23 '15 at 22:09
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    You say "The apostrophe and the acute accent are two quite different characters", but I've seen typewriters which lacked a one and a zero, because a lowercase l and a capital O will serve... – AakashM Apr 24 '15 at 8:20

The apostrophe came first. later, when the grave accent was added, it was decided that the existing apostrophe character could also be used as an acute accent.

Here is a synopsis of the history of these characters:

Mar. 1961 -- The apostrophe character is included in the proposed standard code.

Oct. 1963 -- The grave accent was added to the draft standard, possibly to be used primarily as an accent mark, and it was noted that the apostrophe character could also be used as an acute accent.

This article discusses some character history and provides additional references.

  • that is so weird, an apostrophe is an apostrophe. It doesn't look much like an acute accent in most fonts... – jiggunjer Jul 27 '16 at 5:21

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