Posted By: Anonymous
I’ve seen weirdly formatted text called Zalgo like below written on various forums. It’s kind of annoying to look at, but it really bothers me because it undermines my notion of what a character is supposed to be. My understanding is that a character is supposed to move horizontally across a line and stay within a certain “container”. Obviously the Zalgo text is moving vertically and doesn’t seem to be restricted to any space.
Is this a bug/flaw/exploit/hack in Unicode? Are these individual characters with weird properties? “What” is happening here?
H̡̫̤̤̣͉̤ͭ̓̓̇͗̎̀ơ̯̗̱̘̮͒̄̀̈ͤ̀͡w͓̲͙͖̥͉̹͋ͬ̊ͦ̂̀̚ ͎͉͖̌ͯͅͅd̳̘̿̃̔̏ͣ͂̉̕ŏ̖̙͋ͤ̊͗̓͟͜e͈͕̯̮̙̣͓͌ͭ̍̐̃͒s͙͔̺͇̗̱̿̊̇͞ ̸̤͓̞̱̫ͩͩ͑̋̀ͮͥͦ̊Z̆̊͊҉҉̠̱̦̩͕ą̟̹͈̺̹̋̅ͯĺ̡̘̹̻̩̩͋͘g̪͚͗ͬ͒o̢̖͇̬͍͇͓̔͋͊̓ ̢͈͙͂ͣ̏̿͐͂ͯ͠t̛͓̖̻̲ͤ̈ͣ͝e͋̄ͬ̽͜҉͚̭͇ͅx͎̬̠͇̌ͤ̓̂̓͐͐́͋͡ț̗̹̝̄̌̀ͧͩ̕͢ ̮̗̩̳̱̾w͎̭̤͍͇̰̄͗ͭ̃͗ͮ̐o̢̯̻̰̼͕̾ͣͬ̽̔̍͟ͅr̢̪͙͍̠̀ͅǩ̵̶̗̮̮ͪ́?̙͉̥̬͙̟̮͕ͤ̌͗ͩ̕͡
The text uses combining characters, also known as combining marks. See section 2.11 of Combining Characters in the Unicode Standard (PDF).
In Unicode, character rendering does not use a simple character cell model where each glyph fits into a box with given height. Combining marks may be rendered above, below, or inside a base character
So you can easily construct a character sequence, consisting of a base character and “combining above” marks, of any length, to reach any desired visual height, assuming that the rendering software conforms to the Unicode rendering model. Such a sequence has no meaning of course, and even a monkey could produce it (e.g., given a keyboard with suitable driver).
And you can mix “combining above” and “combining below” marks.
The sample text in the question starts with:
- LATIN CAPITAL LETTER H –
- COMBINING LATIN SMALL LETTER T –
- COMBINING GREEK KORONIS –
- COMBINING COMMA ABOVE –
- COMBINING DOT ABOVE –