The curious case of small caps in Unicode

Small caps is really just a text display style, and as such it should be outside the scope of Unicode.

But what if you want to Bᴇ Cᴏᴏʟ and use small caps in a post on an internet forum that supports Unicode, but not small caps styling? You could do that if Unicode had a special code for every small caps letter.

Fortunately for you, many small capital letters are used for special purposes, such as in mathematics or linguistics. For this reason, they’ve been assigned their own codes in Unicode.

Of the 26 Latin letters used in English, the original Unicode (ca. 1991) had special codes for 8 of them:

U+0299 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL B (ʙ)
U+0262 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL G (ɢ)
U+029C LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL H (ʜ)
U+026A LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL I (ɪ)
U+029F LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL L (ʟ)
U+0274 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL N (ɴ)
U+0280 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL R (ʀ)
U+028F LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL Y (ʏ)

Unicode 4.0 (2003) added 14 more:

U+1D00 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL A (ᴀ)
U+1D04 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL C (ᴄ)
U+1D05 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL D (ᴅ)
U+1D07 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL E (ᴇ)
U+1D0A LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL J (ᴊ)
U+1D0B LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL K (ᴋ)
U+1D0D LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL M (ᴍ)
U+1D0F LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL O (ᴏ)
U+1D18 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL P (ᴘ)
U+1D1B LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL T (ᴛ)
U+1D1C LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL U (ᴜ)
U+1D20 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL V (ᴠ)
U+1D21 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL W (ᴡ)
U+1D22 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL Z (ᴢ)

Unicode 5.1 (2008) added 2 more:

U+A730 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL F (ꜰ)
U+A731 LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL S (ꜱ)

The upcoming Unicode 11.0 (2018?) is expected to add another:

U+A7AF LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL Q

If you’re keeping score, that’s 25 letters. The only one missing is X. Why? I guess the Unicode powers that be haven’t found anyone using a small caps X for any special purpose.

I’m impressed. A normal person might not be able to resist the temptation to add small caps X to Unicode, just for consistency.

(I recognize that in most cases you can simply use a lowercase X as a surrogate. I also recognize that English isn’t the only language. But still.)

I guess the challenge for the rest of us is clear: Find or invent a use for small caps X, and lobby to get it added to Unicode.

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