Online gift ordering + enthusiastic kids at the keyboard + Unicode, wait… Unicode?

Raymond Chen

I was completing an online gift order for my young nephew’s birthday, and I was in the middle of typing Happy birthday into the gift card message when an enthusiastic child reached for the keyboard and held down the “a” key as I typed the final “a” in “birthday”. I wanted to capture the spontaneous enthusiasm in the gift tag, but I had no idea what font or format rectangle was going to be used, so I couldn’t be sure where to put hyphens so that they will ensure line breaks at visually-pleasing locations. And if I didn’t insert hyphens at all, then the line would just run off the end of the gift tag and end up truncated. Unicode to the rescue! First, I fired up charmap and went to character U+00AD SOFT HYPHEN. I double-clicked the character in the grid, thereby copying it invisibly to the Characters to copy box. I then clicked the Copy button to copy the invisible soft hyphen to the clipboard. Then I switched back to my Web browser and pasted the soft hyphen into the long string of a’s every six or so characters, to provide a hyphenation point. Success!

Happy birthd­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­aaaaaa­y!

When the gift reached its destination, my brother said, “Nice job on the hyphens. How did you know where to put them?” I then let him in on the secret. And now I’m sharing it with you.

Anybody know whether Amazon supports the creative use of Unicode to create elaborate smiley faces?