Re: The 'phi' and 'phi symbol' glyph mess

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Tue Aug 24 1999 - 16:44:24 EDT

At 01:15 AM 8/24/99 -0700, Markus Kuhn wrote:
>Robert Herzog wrote on 1999-08-24 07:45 UTC:
>> So please swap the glyph images of U+03C6 and U+03D5 in the Unicode
>I made the same suggestion a week ago, and Asmus Freytag
><> replied privately that Unicode 3.0 will indeed
>swap the example glyphs for the above two characters (just an editorial
>change, no change of character name or semantics), as most font
>designers competent in Greek typography have already done anyway.

I didn't mean to keep this private, just hit the wrong reply button.
But Markus is right about the fact that this is one of the hundreds of
editorial corrections that we made to the code charts for Unicode 3.0 to
better match existing practice, reduce confusion, or simply to upgrade to
higher quality type faces.

In the particular case, we did not take lightly the decision to fix these,
since scientists and engineers do need to have an unambiguous relation
between code and shape - they are not stylistic, but semantic variations in
that case.

Our own research revealed that ISO/IEC 8859-7 (Greek), the IBM registry of
code pages, the Microsoft Windows code page, etc. all map to U+03C6.
Correspondingly, this form has to be the one in common modern use, and the
font designers (with isolated exceptions) have followed suit.

Because swapping the glyphs in this instance matches overwhelming existing
practice, there should be little impact, but long-term much reduced
confusion, on which code to use for what.

> For these and other issues, I would highly recommend Dr. Haralambous'
> "From Unicode to Typography, a Case Study: the Greek Script,
> Proceedings of the 11th Unicode Conference, Boston, 1999" available at

that was the 14th conference

> <>. (Caveat: the file
> is 4 MB big!)
> Dr. Haralambous is a Doctor of Mathematics and a TeX expert (co-author
> of Omega). A significant part of his paper is dedicated to Greek in
> Mathematics.

And, I might add, he contributed some of his expertise to help us improve
Unicode 3.0.


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