Re: Uppercase ß is coming? (U+1E9E)

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Sat May 05 2007 - 22:26:20 CST

  • Next message: John Hudson: "Re: Uppercase ß is coming? (U+1E9E)"

    On 5/4/2007 8:00 PM, John Hudson wrote:
    > Asmus wrote:
    >> With increasing use of ALL UPPERCASE text, users continue to be
    >> bothered by the need to give up orthographic distinctions when using
    >> standard orthography. Therefore, the documented *ongoing* use of ß in
    >> ALL UPPERCASE context. The use of uppercase ß is intended as a glyph
    >> variant not of SS but of ß when used in ALL UPPERCASE text (where its
    >> standard glyph does not fit well, having a descender, etc.)
    >> ß is not ss and uppercase ß is not SS.
    >> (but standard orthography decrees that the UppercaseOf(ß) is to be
    >> "SS" - that's the crux of the issue and the reason for the continued
    >> minority opinion and practice(!) on this issue).
    >> Searching for glyph variants of "SS" is not helpful, as it would
    >> obliterate a (searchable) text distinction desired by the users, and
    >> searching for ways to treat this as glyph variant of ß is not
    >> helpful, because Unicode decided long ago not to treat upper and
    >> lower case as glyph variants.
    > And I agree, if this is, in fact, a mechanism to get the sensible
    > minority usage into the mainstream and eventually affect a reform of
    > the standard orthography (which would certainly be facilitated by
    > Unicode defining casing in such a way as to facilitate equivalance in
    > searching, sorting, etc.). I sort of gathered from the proposal that
    > this was very much *not* the intent, so I've been approaching the
    > matter from that perspective, trying to see if there is a way to
    > facilitate the use of this letterform within the existing
    > implementations of the standard orthography, rather than as something
    > excluded, in parallel and in competition with that orthography.
    I understand, but trying to get at this from a glyph variation for SS is
    really not feasible. It might have been feasible as a variation on on ß
    but when we looked at that in the past we found that this approach was
    unattractive for other reasons.
    > But if Germans *want* the competition, by all means encode the character.
    There's already competition. A sizable amount of usage of *lower case* ß
    in ALL UPPERCASE context also exists and can be documented. It's against
    the standard orthography, but it exists as minority usage, and can be
    encoded in current systems. The proposal aims at replacing that usage
    over time with a more proper uppercase ß, which currently cannot be
    encoded. Whether or not you use the lower or uppercase form of ß in ALL
    UPPERCASE text you experience the same issues of casing inconsistency
    between the standard and the minority orthography. And if you want,
    these two orthographies can be considered to be in competition, although
    by all accounts it seems that if there's a change, it's one that
    replaces "SZ" as a hack that retains the distinction from true double-S
    with use of ß instead. (Probably, because, unlike the telegraph,
    nowadays, the ß is available).
    > The competition will take place in the realm of user frustration: a
    > struggle between the frustration of losing the semantic distinction of
    > ß and ss in allcaps text and the frustration of seeing .notdef boxes
    > appearing when most fonts are used.
    I think that is not a relevant issue in this context. Everyone knows
    that fonts don't get updated overnight. However, *if* you decide to use
    uppercase ß in a document, it is much easier to secure a font, than to
    secure special layout support. Initially, most of the usage will be for
    such items as cited in the proposal: book covers, signs, menus etc., all
    documents for which the use of specialized fonts is an acceptable
    restriction. Once the character has percolated into standard fonts, it
    will be available for those online documents that rely on the fonts at
    the user agent.

    It's useful to retain a sense of perspective here: we are talking about
    ALL UPPERCASE text using a minority orthography. That is something
    that's in (doubly) limited use, and having a transition period will not
    cause any undue hardship.

    I am neutral on whether it is a good (or desirable) idea to reform
    standard German orthography. Given the fact that the last reform has
    barely been digested, I don't judge it likely that _any_ attempts at
    further reform would succeed in Germany in the near future, no matter
    their specific content. However, it is a good principle for Unicode to
    be cognizant of the possibility of change of user requirements over time
    and, everything else being equal, to avoid solutions that are needlessly
    tied to current usage.

    I continue to conclude that this proposal should be accepted as presented.


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