Typo on stamp sickens designer


POSTED: Tuesday, July 21, 2009
This story has been corrected. See below.

It's not the angle so much as it is the weight. The okina used to spell HAWAI'I on the new post office stamp commemorating our 50th statehood is weighted at the top, making it an apostrophe rather than a glottal stop.

Artist Herbert Kawainui Kane, who designed the stamp to honor the Hawaii-born sport of surfing, isn't happy. In a message to associates, Kane said the error made him feel ill.

“;The error was not mine,”; Kane told the Star-Bulletin. “;I e-mailed my notice of it to those with Hawaiian ancestry and other locals who would catch the mistake and fault me for not using the okina.”;

Kane's research discovered although the apostrophe is not really an okina, it's sometimes used wrongly as a typographical stand-in. “;Some current fonts don't give the okina. In English grammar the apostrophe represents a missing letter, whereas the okina indicates a glottal stop in pronunciation, representing a consonant that is archaic.”;

In typography the fat, rounded ends of serifs are often slimmed down in “;sans-serif”; typefaces, and the ball end is hinted at by making one end of the punctuation mark heavier. Like a beginning single quote mark, a proper okina has the weighted end at the bottom, facing right, like the number six, whatever angle it's tilted at. The new stamp is weighted at the top.

Ironically, the statehood stamp will debut Aug. 21 at the Hawai'i Convention Center, which had its own okina troubles when it opened 12 years ago. All of the signs used apostrophes. The convention center largely dealt with the issue by simply removing the punctuation.

According to “;A Pocket Guide to the Hawaiian Language,”; the okina signals a glottal stop, aiding in proper pronunciation of Hawaiian. It “;isn't written with one of the usual letters of the Roman alphabet, but with a backward apostrophe”; or, in other words, a single open quote mark, the guide says.

“;It's universally recognized among linguists as the proper symbol. It's a pronunciation aid,”; noted Puakea Nogelmeier at the time, associate professor of Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The okina is actually a kind of consonant, so using it wrongly can change the whole meaning of the word.

Duke Gonzales, U.S. Postal Service corporate communications specialist, passed along Kane's concern to Washington officials when the Star-Bulletin brought it up. Gonzales has already been told that “;the stamp development process is an extensive process involving much research and discussion in order to ensure that stamp images that are ultimately produced are as accurate and authentic as possible. Those involved in the process take very seriously their mission of appropriately depicting and honoring the history, people, places and artifacts of America's diverse cultures.”;

There have been incidents in the past when errors in the printing of stamps and coins have made them valuable collector curiosities. Unfortunately, they become valuable only when a few are in circulation, not when applied to an entire run.





        » A story on Page 30 Tuesday about a spelling error on the Hawaii statehood stamp contained two errors. Puakea Nogelmeier’s last name was misspelled, and he is an associate professor, not an assistant professor, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.