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When redefining a category code of accessing a character in Plain-TeX style a backtick is present

\catcode`\"=\active
\char`\\

What is used for? Is it used in another situations?

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1 Answer 1

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backtick followed by a character or single-character command name is one of the tex syntaxes for a number. It is the character code of the character

\catcode`\"=\active
\catcode"22=\active
\catcode34=\active
\catcode'42=\active

are all the same thing with the number 34 being entered as the character code of ", in hex, in decimal and in octal.

This syntax can be used anywhere tex is looking for a number, not specifically for catcodes.

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  • Is backtick an active character? Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 8:19
  • @MichaelFraiman Usually it isn't.
    – egreg
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 8:23
  • @egreg which category code does it have then? Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 8:28
  • @MichaelFraiman It has catcode 12; with another category code, it would be invalid for syntax such as \catcode`\_=12
    – egreg
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 8:32
  • 6
    @MichaelFraiman The specialness of ` does not come just from its category code (as with many other “special” characters), but instead the TeX routines that look for a number are hard-coded to do special stuff after a ` token of category code 12. This is similar to the " before hexadecimal constants, the ' before octal constants, and even the decimal point (.) inside constants. So you cannot just give another character the special role that ` has. Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 8:43

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