swung dash [ ~ ]

coiffe

Senior Member
USA
American English
Ewie introduced me to the so-called "swung dash" in a recent post ~ it's the tilde character on the keyboard. I like it a lot -- maybe I've seen it but my mind never identified it as an intentional type of punctuation. I want to use it.

How is it differentiated from the standard long dash? How is one used, as opposed to the other? (I assume they're not interchangeable.) Who uses the swung dash, and why, and where is it seen?

Thanks,

coiffe

<Removed by moderator: out of scope discussion>
 
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    According to the OED its only prescribed use is to mark headwords in dictionaries. When the OED first used it (in a 30s pocket edition, I think) they referred to the character as the tilde.

    Of course, informally it is used in other ways, although none spring to mind (other than as a convenient replacement for an em-dash for computer keyboard users).
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    (Well, first of all I wouldn't call it a tilde, which to me is a diacritical which affects pronunciation: ñ, ã, õ, etc.)
    I use it as follows: (1) a convenient replacement for an em-dash ~ I presume an em-dash is an, erm, long dash. (2) As a replacement for parentheses (because I use far too many of those ~ and have a habit of embedding parenthetical remarks within others ~ like now.) And (3) sometimes as a way of introducing a bit of dialogue in place of quotes.
    ~It's a shame the rest of the original thread didn't survive the resurrection process, said ewie:D

    I should probably add that I use the swung dash both on the computer and in handwriting, but I hardly ever write anything in the least bit 'formal'.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Thanks, MM and ewie. I think there is a lot of room for creativity in the use of this.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I was hoping ewie would give us his thoughts on it, as I had also noticed its use in his writing. Wow, kind of a Swiss Army knife of the punctuation world. Interesting.

    Typographically, it seems that the "swung dash" is usually an elongated version of the tilde. A cursory online search didn't reveal any uses for the tilde outside of dictionaries, unfortunately.

    Apparently, the snark, the ligature of a full stop and a tilde, is one of several proposed "sarcasm marks" or "irony marks." Example:
    I am sooo not being sarcastic.~

    This page mentions the Snark: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snark_(punctuation)
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    There is some discussion here of the swung dash being different from the tilde, but I am looking at a standard PC keyboard and I only see a tilde available. (I haven't yet looked at special characters available in WORD.) There is also no em dash (the hyphen, or en dash, is available, as is the underscore). So at first I thought the tilde might be a convenient replacement for the double hyphen.

    Now I can see it has many possibilities, as you could place it before a line of dialogue, or after; or into other contexts.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    ̃
    tilde (on its own)

    ~
    swung dash (a much bigger, flashier beast)


    long erm em dash

    Yes, Biblio, it's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, really.
    I like your snark ~ never come across one of those before.
    In the pre-resurrection thread there was talk of the swung dash being used as a way of introducing, or marking off, something or other ~ I'm damned if I can remember what it was now.
    I suppose I should add to I use it to replace a long dash that I often use a long dash when I can't quite make my mind up whether to separate bits of writing with a colon, a semi-colon, or a full-stop [period] (I use plenty of those too but find I sometimes don't have the time to stop and ponder which to use for the 0.38secs it takes); or when I just can't bear for two bits of writing to be separated by anything quite so ... separating as a colon, etc.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    ̃
    tilde (on its own)

    ~
    swung dash (a much bigger, flashier beast)


    long erm em dash

    Yes, Biblio, it's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, really.
    I like your snark ~ never come across one of those before.
    In the pre-resurrection thread there was talk of the swung dash being used as a way of introducing, or marking off, something or other ~ I'm damned if I can remember what it was now.
    I suppose I should add to I use it to replace a long dash that I often use a long dash when I can't quite make my mind up whether to separate bits of writing with a colon, a semi-colon, or a full-stop [period] (I use plenty of those too but find I sometimes don't have the time to stop and ponder which to use for the 0.38secs it takes); or when I just can't bear for two bits of writing to be separated by anything quite so ... separating as a colon, etc.

    In the pre-resurrection thread I said that to me, in creative fiction, it seemed natural to use the swung dash in dialogue, but not in descriptive prose. But after bibliolept's snark ~ even though the Wiki example was from dialogue, I believe ~ I'm thinking this punctuation mark could be used anywhere.

    I guess I have to admit I'm excited about it because it seems very new, and it's not often that new fertile fields open up in one's native language. Or maybe it just seems that way ~~
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    In the pre-resurrection thread I said that to me, in creative fiction, it seemed natural to use the swung dash in dialogue, but not in descriptive prose. But after bibliolept's snark ~ even though the Wiki example was from dialogue, I believe ~ I'm thinking this punctuation mark could be used anywhere.
    Nice use of parenthetical swung dashes, C ~ have a coconut!

    I guess I have to admit I'm excited about it because it seems very new, and it's not often that new fertile fields open up in one's native language. Or maybe it just seems that way ~~
    Oooh ~ a double swung dash: I like it! Have another coconut.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Coiffe, the snark (or other "sarcasm/irony mark") is not meant merely for use in dialog. As you can imagine, it has found some use in a variety of text-based electronic communications.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    So at first I thought the tilde might be a convenient replacement for the double hyphen.
    I presume that when you say 'double hyphen', Coiffe, you mean this

    --

    I've seen that it in use on this forum (where I might have used a swung dash) and have thought WTF* is that for?
    But I've been led to believe, from a question posed to me by another member, that the ~ symbol doesn't appear on North American keyboards ~ it's here as plain as day on my European one, just above the # symbol, which I use only very rarely. Is this true?




    *'What the flip?' obviously.
     
    Last edited:

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Actually, ewie, after having made what I thought was an exhaustive search, and not finding it, I just noticed that the ~ is up in the left hand corner of my keyboard, above the ` (è) which I almost never use. :eek:

    Now ~ at last ~ I can be a swunger ~~~

    An absolutely unreliable source that proposes that ~~ be used to mean "I wish you would wash out to sea".
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, they're in different snug corners. In the UK keyboard it's next to the return and shift keys on the right. In the US keyboard, it's at the top left-hand corner.

    Ewie ~ (my chance to use it) the double hyphen is an American typing convention (in the days of the typewriter with the absence of en, em or swung (!) dashes) for a dash. In British typing convention, this is <space) + <hyphen> + <space>.

    Am: It was--unfortunately--not a good result.
    Br: It was - unfortunately - not a good result.

    Also to add: isn't the swung dash used in maths to mean 'approximately'?

    π ~ 22/7
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Approximately equal is the same as = but with the top line replaced by ~
    Unfortunately I don't have the composite symbol immediately to hand.
    Sometimes it is a symbol that looks like two swung dashes, one on top of the other.
    Sometimes it is =~ or ~=
    The preferred way of symbolizing "approximately equal to" is to use the ≈ symbol, the ~ symbol, or (in some cases) the ≅ symbol.
    Source
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Thanks, Panj. Apparently two swung dashes one above the other mean 'approximates' whereas the single swung dash means 'poorly approximates', among other things, according to this. I never knew this before!
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I have kept the use of as it is useful when taking handwritten notes. Another useful one is ≡, which can be used to stress that one thing is identical to another or to indicate a precise definition of a term. Think of it as a very assertive equal sign.
     
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