But how could I resist this? In today's Wall Street Journal, the designer/editor team decided to represent "black swan" as a dictionary entry, pronunciation and all, apparently without consulting an actual dictionary. This is the pitiful result.
I'm no phonetics whiz, and in most discussions of pronunciation, a rough approximation is good enough for me. But you don't need to master the IPA to see a few problems here. The ones that stick out for me:
-- Black swan isn't a closed or a hyphenated compound, so that hyphen in "blak-swan" has no excuse to be there.
-- Black swan (for me, anyway) has equal stress on both words, like black tie or black ops. So if that misbegotten apostrophe was drafted to play to role of a stress mark, it too is superfluous.
-- And finally, the graphic simply ignores the difference that every dictionary would indicate with a special symbol (or two): the difference between the a of black and the a of swan. Here, they're shown as the same sound -- as if "black swan" rhymed with "black man." (Or, given the stress on the second word, with "black-MAN."
Long ago, once of my favorite designers replied to a complaint about a similar problem by telling me the unorthodox typography was "a design element." But I notice the WSJ doesn't treat the big red + signs and % signs in its graphic as "design elements" -- no, those mean just the same thing they always do in business journalism. But lexicographic symbols -- pffft, whatever, who cares.
*Almost. But not quite.