In 19th century English texts, but also seen elsewhere (e.g. Heller's Catch-22) there is a practice of omitting part of a name such as:

I was going to visit Mrs. P___, but decided to remain at home.

which is intended to shroud the name of the person. You may also find bowdlerization of a similar form in the same texts:

I'd have been successful if not for the d____d rain.

where the author (or publisher) would prefer not to use "damned". Is there a term for this practice?

Is there a modern (e.g. TeX, Unicode, HTML etc.) way to represent this typographic convention? The best I can find is the Unicode/ASCII codepoint 0x5f which has the unfortunate habit of being rendered as a continuous line "d____d" where older practice would allow for a small inter-glyph space so you could see that four letters had been omitted in "d····d".

  • 1
    It doesn't answer your specific question, but there was a discussion of the subject here – Colin Fine Nov 18 '11 at 12:07
  • 1
    Though the title question here is about names, there is an older question about redacting dates in older literature that answers this more accurately. – Mitch Nov 18 '11 at 15:18
  • It sounds like you want a typesetter's term, not a general "what do I call this practice". If that's the case, the older question is not a duplicate. However, you might want to edit your question to make it clear exactly what type of word you're looking for. – Marthaª Nov 21 '11 at 15:36
  • @Marthaª I was sort of looking for both as I hoped that one would guide me to the other. The actual question was "I am marking up an antique text for semantic analysis, and I cannot find a conventional way to refer to this practice". An answer to either of the two questions you parsed would have helped; alas, it seems as there is no general answer. – msw Dec 2 '11 at 17:27

Eclipsis, "A line or dash used to show that text has been omitted", is the most precise term I know of for that practice, but it addresses the mechanism, rather than the meaning or rationale.

Some less-specific, less-related, or less-wordworthy terms: elision, omission, concealment, tokenizing, anonymizing.

Update Re "Is there a modern ... way to represent this typographic convention?", in LaTex there seem to be only three non-math dashes, i.e. -, --, ---, the latter two forming en- and em-dashes respectively. Perhaps try tex.stackexchange for more typography help. For lightweight expurgation, consider \cdots for centered dots. For lists of Unicode and HTML dashes, see jkorpela's dashes article on cs.tut.fi; for example, U+2012 or ‒ is a figure dash, ‒.

  • +1 Interestingly the OED opines that eclipsis in sense(2) is "perhaps confused with ellipsis". Thanks for the missing word, correct but quite obsolete as you've noticed. I'm still holding out for the typesetter's term (as it seems like there's got to be one). – msw Nov 18 '11 at 5:59
  • Not only OED, many other sources tie the two words together. – Unreason Nov 18 '11 at 12:54

I would go for ellipses

Those dots that come in the middle of a quotation to indicate something omitted are called an “ellipsis” (plural “ellipses”): “Tex told Sam to get the . . . cow out of the bunk house.” Here Tex’s language has been censored, but you are more likely to have a use for ellipses when quoting some source in a paper: “Ishmael remarks at the beginning of Moby Dick, ‘some years ago . . . I thought I would sail about a little’ —a very understated way to begin a novel of high adventure.”

Ellipses is a general term also known or spelled as: elipsis, elleipsis, eclipsis.

The dictionary entry mentions:

a set of dots (...) indicating an ellipsis

Wikipedia article also specifically mentions:

Bringhurst writes that a full space between each dot is "another Victorian eccentricity."

Eclipsis is probably a misspelling, but it has a very nice conotation of hiding, where ellipses is simply omission. Both terms are normally defined for a word or longer part of text and there is hardly mention of omitting parts of the word or individual letters.

Wiktionary entry for eclipsis has a meaning of

A line or dash used to show that text has been omitted

which seems to be the exact thing that you are after.

However some sources define ellipses as

A set of three dots, periods, or dashes in a row

Some list them as synonyms.

Given all of the above, I would say that eclipsis and ellipses are terms which are not as precise as you might like. Therefore, take you pick.

Keep in mind that ellipses is used much more often than eclipsis, so you will definitively have to establish the context and explain what you mean by it. However, you will probably have to do the same for ellipses because it would most likely be taken to mean … - a single glyph made from three dots.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.