Meet Germany’s new letter, the big ‘ß’

The German alphabet is getting a new letter, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) confirmed on Wednesday.

Meet Germany's new letter, the big 'ß'
It's big! Photo: DPA

Until now, the letter “ß,” called the “Eszett,” has only been a lower-case figure, forcing typographers to find creative ways skirt the letter in advertisements and street signs where words are all capitalized, for example.

But the big “ß,” which makes a double “s” sound phonetically, is now anchored in the international character set number ISO-10646 and Unicode 5.1.

The new big “ß,” used in words like Spaß, (fun), has often been written as “SS” in all-caps situations, but there has been discussion for some 130 years about creating a capitalized version.

The official German Rechtschreibung spelling and grammar rules won’t be affected by the change, though. The council in charge of determining these rules, Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung told news agency DPA, that “ß” will continue to be written as “SS,” and said they don’t plan a language reform for the new letter. However: “The people will decide whether they want to use it,” council head Kerstin Güthert told DPA.

Whether, and how, the new character will be integrated on German computer keyboards remains unclear.