Well-formed

The TEI Members’ Meeting earlier this month gave me a perfect opportunity to show off my XML earrings:

<head> </head>

<head> </head>

They were simple to make; I just printed out the tags on ordinary white paper, cut the paper around them to a triangular template (based on some earrings I already had, so I knew they wouldn’t be too big to wear) and laminated the result (leaving a reasonable margin, partly to prevent the laminated layers from separating and partly to leave room to attach the actual earring hooks). The laminating plastic is thin enough that I could just use a needle to punch through that ‘margin’ to insert the hooks.

The problem with using XML tags for decorative purposes is that anything requiring symmetry is always thwarted by the fact that the closing tag is always one character longer than its opening counterpart: there’s no way to make your <tag> and </tag> line up exactly. I’d already encountered this problem when making Christmas cards for colleagues last year, too:

First drafts of an XML-ish Christmas card

First drafts of an XML-ish Christmas card

While hand-lettering makes it easy to compensate for the asymmetry with creative kerning, the result doesn’t quite look like XML any more.

There is something iconic about markup, though, beyond the punning potential of <head> tags on earrings or hats, and <body> tags (or perhaps <front/> and <back/>?) on tshirts, and so on. Maybe it’s just the retro cool of monospace text; or maybe it’s more that it appeals to our desire to name things, to label them, to impose on them our interpretation of them.

Whatever the reason, I’m pleased to say that the earrings got a good receptionl! I’m happy to make more for other people on a best-effort basis, but equally happy for other people to copy the idea — and I note that someone else is selling a much more robust-looking version over on Etsy. XML: the iconic designer brand that anybody can use!

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