RE: Flag Symbols

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sun Jan 11 2009 - 12:02:23 CST

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    Karl Pentzlinb wrote:
    > Christopher Fynn wrote 2009-01-11 11:42:
    > > A block of 256 characters would be sufficient to handle
    > flags of all
    > > countries with existing ISO 3166-1-alpha-2 codes ~ with
    > enough space
    > > left over for the flags of organizations such as the UN,
    > the IRC, the
    > > EC and a few others.
    > As pointed out before, L2/08-305 (also available at
    > ) deals with this
    > question in more detail.
    > In fact, 632 characters (i.e. a 40 column block) is needed
    > for a solution which avoids the need to incorporate all
    > future changes of ISO 3166 manually.

    Whoild that be enough ? Remember that ISO 3166 is NOT stable, the same
    countries are changing their codes, or codes are reused after some time. In
    addition, some countries have several flags with distinct usages (national,
    enseign, civil, milirary....) and even in this case, flags are also changing
    over time : there will then be the need for historical flags (some of them
    are still displayed and used, like the flag for the former USSR, because all
    flags are not politically neutral.

    Given the changes that occur in this political area over time, this is
    contradicting the need for stability in the UCS : you cannot assume the
    correct semanctic of flags if they are just encoded with names like "FLAG
    AA" .. "FLAG AZ" without being more precise about what they effectively
    designate (even if you are restricting yourself to ISO 3166-1 for modern
    flags, you'll have to track the version history of ISO 3166-1 to make the
    encoding consistant). Just think about "FLAG CS" : which country and which
    flag among the respective variants ?

    A vexillology site will reveal you that there are already many more
    country/nation flags than what you expect : 256 or 632 will not suffice or
    will be used in a way that wastes the space (with unused codes), but also
    with conflicting codes (used at different epochs, so needing a date field,
    not just the code, with also the need to handle flags related to various

    In a book or article speaking about history, even the most recent
    publications, or for publications about sport, I see the proposed solution
    (treating them as variants) completely inacceptable : changing a flag in
    such article completely out of the context of the text that needed to refer
    to a specific flag for a country at a relevant date is certainly not the way
    to go. Different flags for different countries or political regimes is
    certainly not acceptable (would you accept to see the current German flag
    associated to the nzai regime, or the Nazi falg used for modern Germany ?
    Would you accept to see the former Yugoslav flag used for articles speaking
    about Czechoslovlakia?

    No these distinct flags are definitely NOT acceptable graphic variants of
    the same character, if they get encoded as characters ! And even if France
    and Italy use the same tricolor composition, displaying the glyphs in
    monochrome does not mean that thee two flags must be unified by the same
    encoded character (because the color is in fact essential for both flags to
    make the distinction, even if you may find some publications where such
    distinction is impossible this is not the best solution and can only be used
    as a paliative solution, just like we have mapping for compatibility in
    NFKC/NFKD : this loss of color distinction is lossy in germs of information
    and unified colorless flags cannot be meant to represent countries/nations

    And there's no solution for other flags needed in sports that do not cover
    exactly the same federal nations as those recognized at UN (see Ireland as a
    single sportive nation, or England which is not UK): sports is certainly one
    domain where flags are extremely frequently used and displayed, you can't
    ignore it. These flags do not represent directly the national political
    entity, but the federal institution that governs some sport in some areas.

    Those federations are not necessarily following the political or
    administrative divisions even if they are linked to some region of the world
    (another assumption that starts to be wrong as well, given that some sport
    federations are in competition and have cross-border activities, notably is
    North America for some professionalized sports with high audiences, but also
    for some sports in groups of small nations organized with a single
    confederation and no nartional federation really working everywhere). For
    some federations, the flag is not the one used for the country (this has
    included some federations represented at the International Olympic Comity as
    well, notably for new ad hoc comities created after a major change of
    political regime and reorganization of the federations representing the
    various countries : see the participations of the countries of the former
    USSR in the "Unified team").

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