Re: Origin of the term i18n

From: Barry Caplan (
Date: Fri Oct 11 2002 - 16:08:18 EDT

  • Next message: Kenneth Whistler: "Re: Origin of the term i18n"

    At 12:20 PM 10/11/2002 -0700, Mark Davis wrote:
    >> Mark, I am curious why you find this term so distasteful? Is it the
    >algorithm itself or just a general objection to acronyms and the like? Or
    >something else entirely?
    >I find this particular way of forming abbreviations particularly ugly and

    I think it is a meme that is catching on and it serves various purposes more important than "saving keystrokes":

    - these are important words that describe entire fields of study in many specialties
    - many of them (internationalization, globalization, e.g) are in the common vernacular, with vague denotations and possibly negative connotations in the general public
    - As such the words are seriously overloaded and confusing
    - Not only that, but they are spelled differently in various parts of the English speaking world, which affects indexing.
    - They are long and hard to spell for non-native speakers (and probably most US native speakers too)
    - They are toungue twisters for all, especially for some non-native English speakers
    - The overloading of definitions, even within scholarly fields, is calling out for a separation and branding (do a search on localization and see how many branches of science you get)
    - Long words really suck for design purposes. You would be limited to about 9 point type on your business card if anything other than your title included "Internationalization"

    I am working on digging up some deeper history that might shed more light on how i18n was coined initially so stay tuned....

    As for Apple using "internationalization" internally by 1985, that would be consistent with other evidence of the age of that term wrt (oops "with respect to") computer software.

    But lets not hold Apple up as a company as a corporate bastion of clear terms. The public-facing entire corporate branding strategy since the 1984 release of the Mac has been to *not* use functional terms for products. This is just now beginning to change with iPhoto, etc. The strategy has always been anti-Microsoft in this regard, and Microsoft has always preferred generic terms wherever possible. So if Apple still does not use i18n in its docs then it is business as usual wrt to contrariness to Microsoft's approach but *not* business as usual wrt the rest of Apple's history. This is an interesting place for Apple to be (no pun intended)

    Barry Caplan

    PS - I just checked on - it is indeed devoid of references to i18n save a couple of Java APIs and totally devoid of l10n. This must be a long-term enforced policy as Mark hinted - I'd love to speak to whoever came up with it - that it could stick for at least 17 years given the changes at Apple is pretty remarkable in itself!

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