I ultimately got annoyed of Calc's new displaying of parentheses

enter image description here

Here it's vaguely tolerable (you may however notice the presence of artifacts), but for complicated expressions the various graphical characters are often misaligned and I'd like to turn off, today and forever, this new feature of Calc.

I have cursorily checked the Calc menu, but I have not found an option related to what I want.

As requested in the comments, here it is how I get the big parentheses modulo the artifacts, that depend, as discussed below, on using Consolas.

  1. Start Emacs loading no init files, neither system's nor user's

    emacs -Q  
  2. Start Calc in a single window

    M-x calc RET C-x 1
  3. Type a "tall" expression that needs parentheses

    '(3/x + 5/y) a RET

At this point Emacs displays

        ⎛3   5⎞
1:  a * ⎜- + -⎟
        ⎝x   y⎠

I've realized it's the fault of the font I'm using, i.e., Consolas.
All the other monospaced fonts that I checked show an artifact-less behaviour!

Previously I voted to close my question.
Now I decide to retreat my closing vote because, even if changing the font removes the artifacts, the mechanism that activates/deactivates the display of big parentheses is worth to be explained.
Also, note the title of the question, it's not so much about removing the artifacts, but about turning off the big parentheses.

  • I couldn't find any mention of this in the NEWS files. Which version of Emacs does this? I don't seem to get this behavior but I'm not sure what to do to get it: can you give a recipe from scratch?
    – NickD
    Nov 28, 2023 at 18:39
  • @NickD I'm sorry I cannot be more precise, I'd say a couple of years but I won't bet on it. It's one of those things that annoy you but stay in a corner of your field of view, until it's enough...
    – gboffi
    Nov 28, 2023 at 20:30
  • 4
    Can you give a step-by-step way to see what you see? Start with emacs -Q, do M-x calc and then do - what? In fact, can you reproduce the behavior if you start with emacs -Q?
    – NickD
    Nov 28, 2023 at 20:41
  • 1
    @NickD In the end I've realized that it's the font (Consolas) that I'm using. What can be seen in the question's picture is an artifact of the font. Now I have a dilemma: I like Consolas, I like it very much, but…
    – gboffi
    Nov 30, 2023 at 16:01
  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because I based it on a misunderstanding.
    – gboffi
    Nov 30, 2023 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


You have Calc in Big language mode. See chapter 7.8.1 Normal Language Modes of the Emacs Calc manual for more details. This causes calc to format algebraic expressions in a manner closer to paper notation. In the calc buffer, d N will switch to normal language mode which won’t have tall parentheses. d B switches back to Big language mode.

As you have discovered, the precise appearance of the tall parentheses depends on your chosen font. Not every font uses every trick, or supports every obscure feature perfectly, so a great deal of variation is to be expected. The font I use, Input Mono Condensed, doesn’t even have the stretchy parentheses; Emacs ends up substituting Fixed Semicondensed instead, which isn’t quite the same size:

Big language mode with Input Mono Condensed

  • Thanks for this! I still don't understand how the OP got the Big Language as default though.
    – NickD
    Nov 30, 2023 at 20:52
  • 1
    Yea, I don’t really see how that happened either but it doesn’t really change the answer. The real question is what were they on when they implemented it?
    – db48x
    Nov 30, 2023 at 21:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.