RE: Official ISO 3166 country codes online

Date: Wed Dec 01 1999 - 06:33:42 EST

I too agree: national flags used to symbolize languages are definitely

This practice implicitly makes stupid assumptions like:
- All Britons speak English (that would upsets all Welsh and some Scots);
- All English speakers are Britons (that would upsets all Americans,
Australians, Nigerians, etc.)
- And so on for any other language...

I have my own "creative" solution, that I used on my web-page: use a
portrait of the most celebrated poet that wrote in that language:
English=Shakespeare, Italian=Dante, German=Goethe, and so on.

Time ago, I proposed my solution to the webmaster of an anti-nationalist web
site. He recognized that having put an "Union Jack" icon on his site was a
blunder, but he said that my solutions had several problems too (Who decides
that Shakespeare is the greates English language's poet? What if someone
never saw Shakespeare's portrait before? What if Shakespeare looks very
similar to Cervantes, or to another language's "greatest poet"? What if we
have no portraits of a language's "greatest poet"? What if my icon is

He thought about it and, 2 days later, come up with his own solution, that
surprised me for its semplicity and geniality:

He simply used the word "ENGLISH" as a symbol for the English language!

And indeed, if one can read a language (s)he can certainly read the name of
that languages expressed in the same language.

(There is still one problem, that I got to tell to my friend: blind English
speakers cannot read text in icons!)


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Alain []
> Sent: 1999 November 30, Tuesday 22.37
> To: Unicode List
> Subject: Re: Official ISO 3166 country codes online
> À 12:43 99-11-30 -0800, Tony Harminc a écrit :
> >On 30 Nov 99, at 15:02, mg wrote:
> [anonymous]
> >> > I find it amusing that the ISO-3166 official web page has a little
> >> > two-tone-blue & white British flag, with the tag "coming soon:
> >> > english version".
> [mg]
> >> The website of Viennese Tourist Board has found a culturally creative
> >> solution -- it shows two little hybrid icons (half the German flag,
> half the
> >> Austrian flag to indicate the German version; half the Union flag, half
> the
> >> US flag to indicate the English version).
> >> mg
> [Tony]
> >It may be creative, but it's still broken. It'll be culturally
> >sensitive when they manage to get the Australian, Canadian, New
> >Zealand, Irish, and a dozen or so other flags all equally represented
> >in one logo. But it'll still be broken - how should one look for
> >French - under a Canadian or a Swiss flag ? I can't comprehend why
> >people persist in this annoying nonsense. Why should I be expected
> >to look for the flag of some foreign country to find my native
> >language ?
> [Alain] I could not agree more. For French, you would need a pie of 50
> flag/portions. This is nonsense (at least, exceptionally for this one, the
> flag of Francophonie -- a kind of cultural [not really economical]
> commonwealth -- could be used, but this would not be the case for most
> languages). Furthermore in a country, many languages are typically spoken
> (in Canada probably 50, 3 official languages plus many tens of native
> languages). Representing a language by a flag is offensive (particularly
> in
> Québec and, after all, all of Canada, where the flag issue is very
> sensitive!!!!!!) but, worse, it denotes a total lack of linguistic
> awareness of what the world is, culturally.
> Alain LaBonté
> Québec

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