Proposing a DOUBLE HYPHEN punctuation mark

From: Karl Pentzlin (
Date: Mon Jan 22 2007 - 05:39:17 CST

  • Next message: SADAHIRO Tomoyuki: "Re: Proposing a DOUBLE HYPHEN punctuation mark"

    I consider to propose a DOUBLE HYPHEN punctuation mark. Before I
    really do this, I would like to get any opinions and comments.

    The "double hyphen" I discuss here consists of two stacked dashes,
    like U+003D EQUALS SIGN, but in most fonts the dashes are shorter,
    like U+2010 HYPHEN.
    It should have the same character properties as U+2010 HYPHEN.
    It is different from the EQUALS SIGN (by appearance and properties),
    from U+FE66 SMALL EQUALS SIGN (by intended use and properties),
    and from the accepted *U+A78A MODIFIED LETTER SHORT EQUALS SIGN
    (by properties, maybe by appearance, and by intended use especially
     as *U+A78A is a letter).

    I know that the term "double hyphen" is also used for two consecutive
    dashes (which are already representable in Unicode e.g. as U+002D U+002D).
    Therefore there may be a better name as DOUBLE HYPHEN for the "double
    hyphen" discussed here.

    In most cases, such a "double hyphen" may be regarded as a glyph variant
    of the "single hyphen" U+002D or U+2010 (especially when using Fraktur
    But there are cases where this is not the case, but where an explicitly
    double hyphen is to be distinguished from the standard (single) hyphen
    in plain text.

    One special case is covered by the already encoded U+2E17 DOUBLE OBLIQUE
    HYPHEN, but the "double hyphen" discussed here is not necessary oblique
    (glyph variants may be straight or oblique in fact).

    In modern German literature, a "double hyphen" is heavily used by the
    author Arno Schmidt (1914-1979, see e.g. the German page ). He uses this for some kinds
    of compound words, contrasting to other uses of the hyphen where he
    uses the standard (single) hyphen.

    You find an example at .
    It is a scan from Arno Schmidt, Abend mit Goldrand, p.143 of the 1993
    edition. You see the double hyphen within the red circles, together
    with some single hyphens and (differently looking) equation signs on
    the same page, showing that the character is not a font variant of the
    latter two.

    At (a scan of
    Dieter E. Zimmer, Sprache im Zeichen ihrer Unverbesserlichkeit,
    Hamburg 2005, p.169), you see a citation of a text from Arno Schmidt.
    You see the double hyphen misprinted as an equals sign, due to the lack
    of a "double hyphen" proper. But you see the double hyphen is cited beside
    single hyphens within the same text part. This proves that the double
    hyphen is really needed not only within the text of the author, but
    also when writing about his work e.g. in Germanistic texts.

    In a recent proposal to add Medievalist puncuation characters to Unicode
    (L2/07-004), there is stated:
    "Although many editors substitute modern for medieval punctuation,
     a growing number of medievalists insist that modern punctuation cannot
     adequately represent the syntactical features of medieval texts."
    If you admit that this applies not only to medieval texts but also to
    more recent texts and the scientists dealing with them, then it is an
    argument to include things like the "double hyphen" into Unicode.

    A different example for citing double hyphens is found at the German
    site ,
    where the author also uses equal signs due to the lack of a "double
    hyphen" proper.

    A completely different use of a double hyphen like character was found
    in an earlier version of the proposal L2/066 on 2006-08-23 (it was not
    subject of that proposal; that document was updated some days later
    without that example).
    That version of the document contained on page 7 in figure 7
    "Sample from Jones 1941 ..." a symbol which resembles U+2E17 DOUBLE
    OBLIQUE HYPHEN (see ).
    As the single hyphens in that sample are also oblique, it is likely
    that the symbol is some kind of double dash distinct from the hyphen
    while its obliqueness is font specific, thus it seems not to be an
    U+2E17 proper. Also, it seems not to be an U+003D EQUALS SIGN, as it
    is repeated on the beginning of the last line of the first column.
    (Unfortunately, I did not save the whole document at that time, and
    my question on the Unicore list from 2006-08-23 about the nature of
    that character got no answer. Thus, at the moment I have no more
    information available regarding that source).

    If a "double hyphen" is included into Unicode, it should have an
    annotation in the lists like U+2E17, stating the intent that it should
    not be used where a glyph variant of U+002D or U+2010 is appropriate.

    - Karl Pentzlin

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