Re: Proposal to encode dominoes and other game symbols

From: Jonathan Coxhead (
Date: Fri Jun 11 2004 - 11:12:33 CDT

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        (This message is now late and may be untimely. Apologies if so.)

        It is odd to me that most of the examples shown of "plain text" use of the
    domino symbols and playing card symbols are from contexts which are demonstrably
    through-and-through *rich text*---they are HTML web pages!

        Here is a criterion which I would like to put forward:

        ---If the putative new character was to be replaced by a realistic picture
    of the thing denoted, would the meaning of the sentence change?

        In the case of a shamrock used to represent botany, the answer is clearly
    "yes". A picture of a shamrock would have a different meaning from a shamrock
    symbol---for one thing, you might mistake it for a clover leaf, or some other
    kind of flower completely. The same applies to a fleur-de-lys. The use of chess
    symbols passes the same test. There is some kind of "abstraction" process, where
    all kinds of similar things take a stylised representation.

        But in the case of these dominoes and playing cards, the test fails. If we
    try to consider what the difference might be between the symbol for the playing
    card, and having a little inline picture of the playing card, then it's hard to
    see exactly what is gained by the encoding: they have to *look* the same, or the
    meaning of the sentence is lost. In some contexts, the orientation of the card
    may be significant; in others, not so. When you get to Tarot cards, the
    distinction becomes even clearer---the details of the image are as important as
    the identity of the card.

        A "stop sign" symbol fails the same test too. A stop sign in England looks
    very different from a stop sign in the U S. If you change the image, the meaning
    changes---with possibly life-threatening results!

        Andrew C. West wrote:

    > On Wed, 2 Jun 2004 08:05:00 -0400, John Cowan wrote:
    >>>H.7 Some criteria weaken the case for encoding
    >>>-- the symbol is purely decorative
    >>This would seem to exclude dingbats altogether.
    > Or perhaps more apposite examples would be the shamrock and fleur-de-lis symbols
    > (see N2586R). Whilst the former symbol "is sometimes used in lexicography to
    > indicate botany or agriculture", and the latter symbol "symbolizes French
    > culture in general or the Francophonie specifically", I would think that most
    > people would consider them to be purely decorative.
    > If the shamrock and fleur-de-lis symbols pass the criteria outlined in Annex H,
    > it is hard to think of any symbol which would fail.
    > On the other hand, with absolutely no disrespect to Michael intended, the more
    > sceptical amongst us might be forgiven for thinking that the shamrock and
    > fleur-de-lis would never have been accepted for encoding if they had been
    > proposed by someone of lesser stature than Michael, especially given the minimal
    > examples of usage and justification for encoding provided in the proposal.
    > Andrew

             /|  Jonathan Coxhead
      o o o (_|/
             /|  Kucinich for President! <>

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