notes on the phrase ‘lorem ipsum’

The phrase lorem ipsum designates a standard form of sample text beginning with lorem ipsum, used by compositors and graphic designers to establish or demonstrate the textual layout of a print or electronic document before the content has been finalised. By extension, lorem ipsum also designates any form of boilerplate sample text used in this way.

The following explanations are from Column 8, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) of Thursday 6th April 1995:

David Flynn, of PC User magazine, explains for Georgie Brown (Column 8, March 30) why examples given in the Microsoft Word manual are in “Latin”. “A stream of Latin beginning with Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet . . . is used by many software companies in their sample documents,” he says. “The idea is to make the reader focus on the design of the document rather than the content, which is said to be the case if real text is used (such as memos, newsletters and reports from some fictional company).” Richard Brett, of Paddington, agrees, but adds: “The ‘Latin’ referred to is only Latin to someone who never did Latin.” It was originally devised about 35 years ago. It’s only vaguely Latin-looking.

The standard form of sample text beginning with lorem ipsum is based on jumbled elements taken from Book 1, 10.32-33, of De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (About the Ends of Goods and Evils), by the Roman statesman, orator and author Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), and, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (3rd edition, 2018):

Instances of its inadvertent appearance in publications begin in the late 1960s, suggesting that it began to be widely used in publishing around this time. Its popularity is often attributed to its use in samples of body type issued as Letraset dry transfers.

The phrase lorem ipsum originates in an arbitrary clipping of the first syllable of dolorem ipsum in the following passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, Book 1, 10.32—as published in Cicero: De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum. With an English translation by H. Rackham, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Christ’s College, Cambridge (London: W. Heinemann – New York: The Macmillan Co. – 1914):

     Latin text, from pages 34 & 36:
Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia nonnumquam eiusmodi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem.
     Translation, from pages 35 & 37:
No one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure.

In the above-quoted 1914 edition, the Latin text, presented on the left-hand pages, breaks off on page 34 with Neque porro quisquam est qui do-, and continues on page 36 with lorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, which suggests that the sample text used by compositors and graphic designers originated in that edition—the following image is from the top of page 36:

CICERO DE FINIBUS

lorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia nonnumquam eiusmodi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem.

The earliest texts containing lorem ipsum that I have found are newspaper advertisements—the first two are:

1-: From The Press and Journal (Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland) of Wednesday 10th December 1969—each voucher contains a number next to a ‘lorem ipsum’ text:

Exciting News!
You can swop your vouchers FREE for the quality stamp
Discerning motorists know the value of S&H Pink Stamps. So—if you have vouchers like these—bring them to any garage giving S&H Pink Stamps where they will be exchanged entirely free for—
[…]
luptas erit praedermit sit et simul
Lorem ipsum dolor si amet, consectetur a quis nostrud exercitation ullam corpor sus consequat, vel illum dolore eu fugiat nulla [?] exceptur sint occaecat cupiditat
Nam liber tempor cum soluta nobis est [&c.] 80 Extra
75 S&H Pink Stamps

Think Pink—it pays!

2-: From the Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan, USA) of Sunday 8th November 1970:

make your kitchen beautiful fast
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed diam nonnumy eiusmod ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullam corpor suscipit laborios nisi ut aliquip in voluptate velit esse nihil molestiae consequat, vel illum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. At praesent luptatem delenit atgue duos dolor et molestias exceptur sint occaecat cupiditat non est laborum et dolor fuga. Et harumd dererud facilis est er expedit distinct. Nam liber tempor id quod maxim placeat facer possim omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellend. atib saepe eveniet ut er repudiand sint et molestia non recusand. Itaque earud rerum hic repellat. Hanc ego cum tene sententiam, quid est cur verear ne ad eam non possing
cabinetpack kitchens of detroit

This interesting advertisement was published in The Daily Register (Red Bank, New Jersey, USA) of Thursday 12th July 1984:

For People Who Know How To Read Between The Lines.
From T. J. McMahon.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet Lore[m]
We’re offering to our customers
diam nonnumy eiusmod ter diam
the opportunity to save on our
magna aliquam erat volupa magna
Men’s Spring and Summer Suits,
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet Lorem
Sports Coats, Slacks and Sports-
diam nonnumy eiusmod ter diam
wear. We’re also offering savings
magna aliquam erat volupa magna
on our outstanding Womenswear.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet Lorem
All this at savings of 20% to 50%.
diam nonnumy eiusmod ter diam
Just for reading between the lines.

Clothing Classics by T. J. McMahon’s

These are the earliest texts that I have found in which lorem ipsum appears as a phrase—in chronological order:

1-: Erik & Tom take a stand on the literacy thing, published in The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA) of Thursday 12th April 1990:

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet in hendrerit.”
                                        —Julius Caesar
It’s as true today as it was when Caesar said it 3,000 years ago. Just ask any 7th-grader. He’ll tell you what it means. Or he would if he weren’t culturally illiterate.
It’s an epidemic of frightening proportions.
Kids just don’t know anything anymore. Kids used to take stuff like Latin and Greek and What Quantum Mechanics Means to Me. Now they take crap like Woodshop, Typing and The History of Rock’n’Roll. Real pansy courses, if you ask us. […]
If it doesn’t have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in it and it isn’t sugar-coated, they just aren’t interested. […]
Barbara has the right idea with this wacky literacy thing.
“Now, Bar, about this literacy thing,” we can hear George mumbling from across the family table while he munches down his broccoli-free breakfast. “Now, you know I’m a little short on the Vision Thing. Help me out there.”
[…]
“I know what we need, George,” she says. “We need more money for the American education system.”
George is not convinced. He knows what we need:
“Turtles, Bar. Not so old. Changed. Not the same. Like pizza, Bar. Martial arts. The whole shebang. Big with the kids. Kids love ’em. High approval rating.”
“George, you remember what Caesar said about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? He said . . .”
“. . . Lorem ipsum, Bar. Lorem ipsum. True then. True today. Or was it ‘Et tu, Donnatello ?’”

2-: The above-quoted paragraph from Column 8, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) of Thursday 6th April 1995.

3-: Push Past Page Layout’s Limits, by Robert C. Eckhardt, published in Macworld (Macworld Communications, Inc.) of September 1995:

Hot New XTensions and Plug-ins
Some plug-ins and XTensions are so new that the experts haven’t had time to decide which are keepers. Here are some of the newest ones that have people talking. […]
[…]
● Jabberwocky A little tired of using Lorem ipsum for mock-ups? Then try Quark’s Jabberwocky 1.0 XTension, which generates nonsense text to fit the available space (see “Easy Shadows, Mock Text”). Its artificial, not-so-intelligent engine creates paragraphs in your choice of nearly-Joycean English, politically incorrect Politicspeak, imitation Latin, fake Esperanto, and pseudo (I think) Klingon. Should you tire of Jabberwocky’s word lists, you can create your own language.