Re: Internationalization--Standard Conventions

From: G. Adam Stanislav (
Date: Sat May 29 1999 - 21:26:33 EDT

On Sat, May 29, 1999 at 02:14:53PM -0700, Markus Kuhn wrote:
> Your company would write
> +1 715 362-9586

Thanks, I have changed it to that on my web site now.

> The purpose of the + is to remind you to enter at this point the
> escape sequence that lifts you onto the international level.

I see. It makes sense now. :-)

> > It is also ridiculous to try to standardize
> > what language people should use.
> That was not my point!

I did not say it was. I was just making an observation. Thinking outloud, so to
speak. I did not mean it as criticism of what you wrote. If it came out that
way, please accept my apologies.

I was just reacting to the possibility that someone might want to standardize
what language people should use, not necessarily implying that someone was you.

> This is not my wish, only my observation.

Yes, I understand. :-)

> ISO standards are also affordable to me, but most ISO standards are also
> adopted as British Standards, which are fortunatelly available in most
> public libraries in Britain.

Lucky you. Our local college library can get just about anything on an
inter-library loan, but that takes time, and I only can get it for a week
or two. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I could find anything in the library.
Now that I am in Smalltown USA, I have to rely on the web.

> I hear with delight that ISO
> 10646:1999 will become available freely online.

Glad to hear that.

> About the decimal dot versus comma: ISO 31 allows both dot and comma.
> If you want to separate groups of three digits, then use a thin space,
> but never either a dot or a comma, as this would lead easily to cultural
> confusion.

Hmmm. Interesting. I asked this because I have created a programming language
for the creation of graphic counters, and have been wondering how to handle
the grouping of three digits. Finally I decided to just let the language
users pick anything they want (including blank spaces).

> I don't think there is an international convention, at least I don't
> know any. ISO 4217 (which defines the 3-letter currency codes such as
> USD for US dollar, DEM for Deutsche Mark, EUR for the euro, etc.) does
> not make any statement.

That's a pity. I wish it did.

> ISO 31 says that units of measurement are to be
> put behind the numeric value separated by a space (as in "20 kg"), but
> ISO 31 also says in the introduction that is is not intended to cover
> monetary units. I still think, ISO 31 is the best convention, i.e. write
> 500 EUR, 25 USD, etc. Putting the currency after the number is
> consistent with the notation for physical units and it will improve
> table layout. Why should I put the dollar sign in front, but the
> Ohm sign behind a number?

Good question. :-) I have been wondering that myself. Plus, the use of `$'
is vague as it does not say whether its a US dollar, or Canadian dollar,
or an old Bohemian taler, or some other dollar.

> > As for the inches, I knew there were either 12 or 16 inches to a foot,
> > but was not sure which it was (I am still not sure). So I asked the 20 or
> > so people in the waiting room how many inches were in a foot. Nobody knew...
> And if you find one who does actually know, then ask to convert a cubic
> feet into gallons. The entire "US customary" system of units and the
> American's love for it is unbelievably ridiculous for anyone who grew up
> with SI units. Also observe what happens if you try to use a US copying
> machine in order to reduce two USLetter page down to the size of a
> single USLetter page in landscape format. You end up with ridiculously
> large wasted margins, while with A4 paper not a millimeter of paper is
> wasted and everything looks neat. Similarly, US printshops have to deal
> with a plethora of different aspect ratios, while the rest of the world
> has long ago understood the advantage of sqrt(2) formats (see ISO 216).

Yes, and the whole use of points in computer typography. Not only are they
not metric, they are not really traditional points either. Similarly, dots
per inch. Yuck! Add to it the fact that when used on computer monitors, those
units are completely unrelated to reality since not all monitors have the same
size, and even those that do can be used at different resolutions.

Plus 1 K in computerese is actually 1.024 K anywhere else. Ah, don't get me
started! :-)


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Tue Jul 10 2001 - 17:20:46 EDT