I recently came across this answer on Sci-Fi Stack Exchange. It appears to be written in a font designed to look like hard-to-read, old fashioned handwriting. As such, to make it easier to read, I copy/pasted it into gedit (a text editor that does not support formatting — like Notepad). To my surprise, the strange formatting stayed. Upon further inspection (i.e., Googling the most strange looking characters, noticing the year appears to be written partially normally) I came to the conclusion that they are a set of strange letter-like characters in Unicode.

My question has two parts:

  1. Am I correct about what these characters are?
  2. If so, why does Unicode contain extra characters that appear to serve no purpose other than that of fonts?

It is the Unicode character U+1D4E6 – Mathematical Bold Script Capital W.

The letter is from the Unicode block ‘Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols’. It is used by mathematicians to distinguish different objects, e.g., different sets. In Word, the character is accessible by Insert Equation → Symbols → Scripts.

As the character set looks kind of ancient, you can of course write regular text in it as well, e.g., a Sci-Fi story.

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    Note that using such characters to write regular text is strongly discouraged and causes issues in terms of searchability, portability, and accessibility. – Wrzlprmft Aug 10 '16 at 11:48
  • @Wrzlprmft Firefox seems to be able to search for it [which is more than can be said for stuff like IPA small caps that some people use] – Random832 Aug 10 '16 at 14:32
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    @Random832: … not if you turn on match case. – Wrzlprmft Aug 10 '16 at 14:37
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    @Random832: I disagree. If I search with match case (or similar verbatim search options), I want to find exactly the Unicode characters I enter into the search field – that’s what such options are for. For example, if I have a properly encoded mathematical document, I may want to search for all instances of the mathematical symbol 𝒲, but not the capital letter W. Your “solution” would break this. The only alternative would be to offer the user a detailed inventory of options, as to what types of Unicode characters shall be equated by the search, which would be overwhelming for most. – Wrzlprmft Aug 10 '16 at 15:17
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    @Wrzlprmft Has it ever bothered you that curly quotes are matched when you type straight quotes [and vice versa] in the search? Does it bother you now? Chrome doesn't even have "match case". – Random832 Aug 10 '16 at 15:21

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