Pound and Lira (was: Re: The Currency Symbol of China)

From: Kenneth Whistler (kenw@sybase.com)
Date: Mon Sep 30 2002 - 18:27:11 EDT

  • Next message: John Cowan: "Re: Pound and Lira (was: Re: The Currency Symbol of China)"

    > Marco Cimarosti scripsit:
    > > The same should be true for the sign.
    > >
    > > But unluckily, for some obscure reason, Unicode thinks that currencies
    > > called "pound" should have one bar and be encoded with U+00A3, while
    > > currencies called "lira" should have two bars and be encoded with U+20A4.
    > "Every character has its own story."
    > Can the old farts^W^Wtribal elders shed any light on this one?

    Not much.

    The proximate cause of the inclusion of U+20A4 LIRA SIGN in
    10646 was:

    WG2 N708, 1991-06-14, Table of Replies (to the ballot on
    10646 DIS, "DIS-1"). That document contains the U.S. comments
    asking for all the additions which would synchronize the DIS
    repertoire with the Unicode 1.0 repertoire, and that included
    U+20A4 LIRA SIGN.

    It is a deeper subject to figure out how the LIRA SIGN got into
    Unicode 1.0 in the first place, and I don't have all the
    relevant documents to hand to track it down. It was certainly
    already in the April 1990 pre-publication draft of Unicode 1.0
    which was widely circulated.

    I do recall the issue of one-bar versus two-bar yen/yuan sign
    being researched in detail and being explicitly decided.
    I also recall explicit (and tedious) discussions about
    the various dollar sign glyphs. I do not, however, recall
    any time spent in discussing the analogous problem of glyph
    alternates for the pound/lira sign, although it was probably
    mentioned in passing. So it is possible that the lira sign
    simply derives from a draft list that was standardized
    without anyone ever spending time to debate the pound/lira
    symbol unification first. It was probably in the same lists
    that distinguished yen/yuan sign before it was determined
    that distinguishing those two as a *character* was untenable.

    Those were heady days. It is generally much easier to track
    down why something was added post-Unicode 1.0 than it is
    to figure out how something got into Unicode 1.0 in the
    first place.

    To quote from a particularly memorable email I sent around
    on April 4, 1991 about an unrelated mistake that was almost

      "The High Ogonek is symptomatic of one of the things
       wrong about the character standardization business,
       which encourages the blithe perpetuation of mistaken
       'characters' from standard to standard, like code
       viruses. At least, in the past, the epidemic was
       constrained by the fact that the encoding bodies only
       had 256 cells which could get infected by such
       abominations as half-integral signs. Now, however,...
       the number of cells available for infection is vast,
       and the temptation to encode everybody else's junk
       just seems to have become irresistible...

      "...I don't think I would be telling any tales out of
       school if I revealed that Unicode almost got a 'High
       ogonek', too, since Unicode was busy incorporating
       all the 10646 mistakes in Unicode while 10646 was busy
       incorporating all the Unicode mistakes in 10646. ..."


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