Re: Internationalization--Standard Conventions

From: John Clews (
Date: Sun May 30 1999 - 13:30:01 EDT

I hadn't intended to make more than a brief comment, but it might be
worth noting which trends are actually happending, which are not, and
speculating what further one might change, especially between decimal
and non-decimal conventions.

In message <> Michael Everson writes:...

> although Ireland became fully metric in the 1960s,
> still young people think of body weight in stone, so I'd be surprised
> if it were otherwise in the U.K.

That's true: people think in stones (and the remainder in pounds)
when weighing people: people weighing themselves tend to like to
approximate, especially towards middle age when a narrow waist and a
broad mind can begin to change places :-)

People in the UK at least find it hard to imagine people's weight
expressed only in pounds (as is common in the USA) partly because the
divisor/multiplicator is fourteen when converting to/from US/UK

Personally I like the idea of weight in pounds only: it's more
logical. Hoever habit dies hard, and estimating people's weights in
pounds only is unlikely to take hold: conversion to kg only is as
likely (or not) in the UK as statement in pounds only.

> Temperature in Ireland is given in C, but isn't
> F more common in the U.K.?

Now both are in use in UK weather forecasts, but C is now given
first, and sometimes only C, and most people now can imagine how hot
or cold is a C estimate from a weather forecast.

Only Centigrade temperature annotations tend to be recorded on
refrigerators. No great gain from also adding Fahrenheit there.

> Some other things in Ireland are also still not metric. Legacy roadsigns
> tell how far to the next town in miles (the ones in km are a different
> colour!),

No kilometers on UK roadsigns: miles and kilometers tend both to
feature on car speedometers though (on inner and outer rings).
Odometers tend only to record miles and not kilometers.

Petrol (gas in the USA) in the UK is sold only by litres: no dual

Air for tyres in garages does have dual display for bars (as in 1000
millibars) and also psi (pounds per square inch).

> and my local butchers still sell meat in pounds. I'm not sure
> whether their scales (digital) are set up to switch between
> kg and lbs or not.

The same happens in the UK: switching is normal. Different legal
requirements operate for display of fresh and pre-packed foods,
though very little is displayed only in lbs and oz. As lbs/kilos have
an approximate 2:1 relationship, people are used to checking.

> And a pint is a pint. Absolutely.

And - in pubs - likely to be the last to change! Milk is sometimes
sold in pints or multiples, and sometimes in litres or multiples,

> Well, I don't detect an abiding outcry from European typographers to
> abandon the point (or the Didot point) putting pressure on the US software
> vendors, who are often very practical when it comes to bowing to market
> pressure. :-) I do think that an international standard for metric
> typography should be _available_ however.

I would also find metric typography measurements useful. Unless you
are a typographer and design typefaces, there's nothing natural to
users about point sizes.

In the old days of typewriters, courier, prestige and elite faces on
typewriters did mean an average or exact character width and line
length (in inches again!) which to me looked more natural.

An average number of characters-per-unit-length, with variations for
proportional or monospace fonts, might be handy as a basis for a
basis for a decimalised expression of typesize.

Or something based on character height between baselines (0.1 - 0.9;
1.0 - 1.9, etc).

There again, when are we going to find agreement on the decimal
point vs. the decimal comma? Any movement on that in either

I look forward to hearing any further comments on trends on chaaning
conventions in this area.

Best regards

John Clews

John Clews, SESAME Computer Projects, 8 Avenue Rd, Harrogate, HG2 7PG
Email:;   telephone: +44 (0) 1423 888 432
Committee Chair:  ISO/TC46/SC2: Conversion of Written Languages
Committee Member: CEN/TC304: European Localization Requirements
Committee Member: ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC22/WG20: Internationalization
Committee Member: ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC2: Coded Character Sets

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