Re: Naming of functional ASCII characters in Unicode

From: Antoine Leca (
Date: Thu Jun 08 2000 - 04:54:36 EDT

Bernd Warken wrote:
> In programming and old-style databases the used characters stand for
> syntax and are not meant for giving a nice look when printed, while
> type-setting has the intention to add aesthetical value to the information.

Certainly, bureaucracies all around the world are using old-style
databases, then. Because I do not see aesthetic as being a prime
requisite ;-). OTOH, I see a number of the users I support that are
passing lengthly hours to "improve" the presentation of a note in Word
(we did not licence neither PageMaker nor XPress), using various fonts,
printing various drafts, using smart quotes etc. Usually the note says
"You'd better turning the light off when leaving the room." Certainly
I see that aesthetic comes in play here; OTOH, there is no added meaning,
and often it is the contrary. However my personnal impression is that
they use the computer like a toy (don't mind, I am just doing exactly
the same, right now).

> So the main task of the ASCII character is functional for programming
> purposes, not for pretty-printing. So it's a pity the naming and the
> glyph does not reflect this.

Do you propose to leave all ASCII characters, including A to Z
(some of which have been used IN the former Soviet Union for the
likewise Cyrillic letters; also some have slightly different
meaning depending of the context), on the basis that they are
not functionnal for pretty-printing?

OK, I know, I am overstating your point. However, if we stick with
the characters you mention:

- First, the glyph is outside Unicode scope: you are free to give them
an proeminent "programming" feel, and a lot of rendering systems
are doing exactly that with characters like ^ (what you call caret,
which is a foreign word for me), which I almost never see represented
as a correct circumflex accent, because it is always oversized; similar
cases applies for " ' (which are straight on a number of systems
when you leave the Unix world) and - (which is undersized for both
mathematical and hyphenating uses in French, according to my taste).
So this point is already done in the field.

- Now about names, I reiter: English names for characters are just
shorthands convenient for first the programmers like you and me, and
then to a small number of English-speaking people that may insist
that the names convey more informations than other things such as
the glyph or the context (and Asmus insisted that both the names *and*
the comments should be used then, I believe he is very right).
ISO 10646 did the right thing in changing the "reference" from the
English names to the abstract U+ notations. Is it a solution you will

> Bug-fixing is wanted in free software, but it is deprecated in dead
> commercial standards. So where is the future to be found?

Bug-fixing is wanted in *living* softwares, no matter they are free
or not. You already know that the most dead softwares we have are in
the free category! (open source is another thing, because it leads to
the impression that if you want to fix a bug, you always can; this is
a false impression, particularly when the source is badly written;
furthermore, open source is not the same as free: these are orthogonal

Now about standards, I do not like the "commercial" adjective above,
because I do not see the added value. Anyway, certainly dead standards
are not fixed, but they are not used as well, so this is not a problem.
OTOH, living standards are fixed, being with revisions as it is called
in the ISO world, with new updating RFCs in the Internet folkore.
Furthermore, I believe that lack of bug-fixing *follows* the effective
death of a standard, since there are always a group of experts to try
to "reanimate" the standard, even if no one is really interested.

So the future is to improve and bug-fix living things, being softwares
or standards. As such, I understand your contribution here is welcome
(which is the reason I am still participating to this thread).

> Dont't feel too ISO-late-d.

As I wrote, this one is particularly not adequate: ISO 10646 does not
have your mentionned problem: glyphs are no more normative than in
Unicode, and names have no problem, because you will not dispute
that U+0022 should be used for ", will you?

Best regards,

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