Claim: Microsoft's Webings and Wingdings fonts include hidden anti-Semitic and 9/11-referential messages.
Examples: [Collected via e-mail, September 2001]
2. type "NYC" in uppercase letters
3. change the font size to 72
4. change the font to webdings
5. change the font to wingdings
I've heard a few people suggesting that this is a sign that Microsoft were involved in the terrorist attack.
Origins: In the wake of the
The images associated with the capital letters
One of the world's best-selling computer programs contains a secret anti-Semitic message apparently urging death to Jews in New York City.
A computer consultant discovered the diabolic message while installing Microsoft's new
The consultant was testing a mailing-address use of the program when he noticed the letters "NYC" had been replaced by a hateful message - a skull and crossbones, the Star of David and an approving thumbs-up symbol.
Microsoft strongly denies any hidden message. Others disagree.
"There's no way it could be a random coincidence," said Brian Young, a friend of the consultant, who does not wish to be named.
"It's pretty scary. I was pretty shocked by the whole thing."
Computer owners who use Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word or any other Microsoft program containing a print font named "Wingdings" can duplicate the anti-Semitic message by typing the letters "NYC" on their screen.
Microsoft said "Wingdings" was designed by Bigelow and Holmes, an outside vendor, and denied that Microsoft intentionally designed the secret message.
Prof. Charles Bigelow confirmed that his company provided the symbols, but insisted that Microsoft made the final "mapping" decisions assigning his symbols to specific keys on the keyboard.
But a senior Microsoft spokesman said the charge that the fonts contain a hidden message is "outrageous."
"It's like saying that if you randomly type out characters on a keyboard to spell 'Satan', you can do that, but it's incredible to say that there's anti-Semitism in Microsoft or one of its vendors," said Charles Hemingway.
But Young, who discussed the matter with other computer consultants, isn't so sure it's just a coincidence.
The "Wingdings" font contains no letters — just 255 symbols.
Young calculated the odds of three letters of the alphabet being combined with 255 symbols, and said he found that the odds of obtaining the message were less than one in a trillion.
"It's mind-blowing," said Young. "Somebody's responsible for this. This is very offensive."
"I found it hard to believe some of the stories about the resurgence of Nazi sympathizers — but this puts things back into perspective."
At the simplest level, wingdings and webdings are much like an alphabet of characters and provide thousands of potential combinations from which a person could choose. Changing the character set would create an impact of unknown scale on existing data and code using the affected font. Again, using the example of the alphabet, what would happen to existing documents and applications if we switched around a handful of letters? The likely result is that we would create significant issues for people, cause some unintended humorous moments and several offensive ones. For that reason Wingdings has been left unaltered since its inception.
"We have enough symbols and combinations that it's almost inevitable that you'll find something that's a little sinister," he said. Although it's common for designers to include one or two deliberate messages — usually something innocent like a logo — it's safe to assume that the image strings on Wingdings were randomly generated.
Hosek said he has known the creators of Wingdings — Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes of the font design firm Bigelow & Holmes — for more than a decade and is convinced that they had not intended to offend anyone.
"These are two of the most peace-loving people on the face of the Earth," he said. "There's no way it was anything other than an unfortunate coincidence."
The last coincidence mentioned in the example quoted at the head of this page, that the arrangements of symbols corresponding to the string "Q33NY" in the Wingdings font is a "sign that Microsoft were involved in the terrorist attack," is purely a contrived one. Although typing the characters
The numerous suggestions that have since been offered about what 'Q33' really does refer to (everything from a New York bus route to a verse from the Quran) merely highlight how easy it is to find significance in anything, meaningful or not.
"MS Denies Wingding Thing, Again" (Wired News)
"I Heart My Dog's Head" (Penn Jillette)
Last updated: 11 December 2005
Broderick, Don. "Anti-Jewish Code Lurks in Popular Software." New York Post. 29 April 1992 (p. D1). Glasner, Joanna. "MS Denies Wingding Thing, Again." Wired. 22 September 2001. Jillette, Penn. "I Heart My Dog's Head." PC Computing. August 1992.