Re: Emoji: Public Review December 2008: e-1DE CHINESE ZODIAC DRAGON

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Tue Mar 10 2009 - 19:10:00 CST

  • Next message: Peter Constable: "RE: Emoji: Public Review December 2008: e-1DE CHINESE ZODIAC DRAGON"

    > >>> While I do not
    > >> think that we should encode CHINESE ZODIAC DRAGON and CHINESE ZODIAC
    > >> RABBIT, the fact is that in encoding DRAGON and RABBIT we are
    > >> encoding
    > >> characters which can (and should) be used for those functions.
    > >
    > > I disagree again. The character for CHINESE ZODIAC DRAGON
    > > is U+9F8D.
    > No, I think. Emphatically no, indeed. Why? Because the Chinese Zodiac
    > signs are used outside of China where Chinese characters are
    > meaningless. A calendar in Kazakhstan or Vietnam for instance might
    > use the Chinese Zodiac but will very likely not have any Chinese on it.

    Many countries outside of China proper may indeed be using
    the Chinese lunar calendar in one way or another. But in
    such cases, they are making use of the system of 10 Celestial
    Stems and 12 Terrestrial Branches, which *are* represented
    by 22 well-known Chinese characters. How that calendrical
    system is translated into Kazakh or Vietnamese, and what
    symbols may then be associated with them is a matter for
    empirical research -- and there may well be additional sets
    of symbols to encode as a result.

    But to assert that the emoji pictographs for various animals *are*
    the Chinese Zodiac signs would just be bizarre.

    If people want to make use of cutesy animal symbols *from* the
    emoji set to represent Chinese Zodiac signs in some context
    where they can't use (or understand) the actual Chinese
    Terrestrial Branches, then nobody is going to stop them,
    of course.

    > > It isn't represented as an emoji of a dragon. Although that doesn't
    > > stop people, of course, from using pictures of animals to
    > > represent the Chinese zodiacal signs, any more than it prevents
    > > Western astrologists from using pictures of mythical figures
    > > and beasts to represent Western zodiacal signs.
    > I don't think it is the same thing. I don't think it is normal or
    > expected to draw CJK characters as pictographic symbols. That is
    > different from the long

    Different from what?

    > >> It does not matter what Japanese telecoms are using them for.
    > >
    > > Actually, it does.
    > Asserting this does not make it so.

    Well, no more than asserting the opposite makes it so.

    > >> It must be understood that once any of these characters are
    > >> encoded, they
    > >> CEASE to be "emoji" symbols,
    > >
    > > No, they don't.
    > Oh yes, they do, and I really hope you take this concept on board if
    > you want success encoding these characters in WG2.

    Oh no, they don't. lol

    > Every character in the standard can be used by everyone, regardless of
    > the origin of the characters. The reason the UTC is requesting these
    > symbols maybe interoperability with a particular environment, but
    > EVERY ONE of those characters will simply be a pictographic symbol in
    > the standard, available for any use, not restricted to cellular
    > telephony.

    I didn't say they would be restricted to cellular telephony.
    Of course they wouldn't be. I said they wouldn't cease to
    be emoji symbols. Your claim was as absurd as claiming that
    the Optical Character Recognition symbols at U+2440..U+244A
    cease to be Optical Character Recognition symbols, once they
    are encoded in the UCS and become "available for any use."

    > As such, they must be considered in that wider context.

    Sure. I have no problem with considering things in a wider context. ;-)

    > >> and are just plain old Symbols for Use By Anybody who wants to use
    > >> the Universal Character set.
    > >
    > > They may *additionally* be interpreted as plain old symbols for
    > > arbitrary use by anybody else, to mean whatever they think they
    > > should mean.
    > Oh, come on. Not "whatever they think they should mean". The FIRE
    > ENGINE is not ambiguous as to its meaning.

    Of course it is... just like virtually every one of the pictographic
    symbols. It might represent, for example, the fire truck itself,
    or the map location of a fire house, or the concept of firefighting,
    or be extended semantically to refer to a class of emergency vehicles.
    You'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) at how people can
    manipulate visual symbols to mean different things.

    > Nor is a RABBIT.

    Same thing. It is a cute little bunny rabbit? A hare? A symbol
    of Easter? A symbol of fecundity? A zodiacal sign?

    > The
    > Chinese Zodiac makes use of a rabbit

    Well, no. It's actually the Asian hare, Lepus brachyurus, different
    from the European hare, Lepus europaeus, and more specifically
    different from the European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus.

    > and I really don't think it's a
    > stretch to expect an encoded RABBIT to be used for that purpose -- or
    > that it would be better to encode a different rabbit pictogram for the
    > zodiacal use.

    Well, on that general point I would be in (guarded) agreement.

    If somebody wants a nice cuddly set of 12 animal symbols to represent
    the Chinese Terrestrial Branches with pictographs of their
    associated animals, then making use of the emoji set of cuddly
    animal pictographic symbols would be fine with me.

    In that context, then you would need to understand that:

    RABBIT --> hare/rabbit, associated with Terrestrial Branch 4

    MOUSE --> rat/mouse, associated with Terrestrial Branch 1

    COW --> ox/cow, associated with Terrestrial Branch 2

    CHICKEN --> rooster/hen/chicken, associated with Terrestrial Branch 10

    Then you're fine.

    > > But such use is buyer-beware when picked out of sets encoded for
    > > other purposes.
    > What are you on about?

    That if you pick and choose some other set of denotations for
    symbols encoded for a different purpose, you may run into
    trouble, both in terms of range of supported glyph variation
    and in terms of other people's interpretations of the symbols.
    It just comes with the territory.

    > The SMOKING and NO SMOKING characters are part
    > of the emoji set. Its use in Japanese telephony is as accidental as
    > the use of the plain old ordinary SMILEY FACE. It's certainly
    > conceivable that the NO SMOKING character could well have been encoded
    > already for other reasons had someone done up a proposal for it.

    Of course.

    > > Grabbing a couple of animal emoji out of a big set of such
    > > (including many that manifestly nothing to do with zodiacal signs,
    > > POODLE, ...), and claiming that in RABBIT and DRAGON "we are
    > > encoding characters which can (and should) be used for [the Chinese
    > > zodiacal] functions" strikes me as just such
    > > a buyer-beware mistake.
    > Not at all. I read the emoji animal set as a superset, which contains
    > within it the animals used in Chinese astrology. I don't think that's
    > a stretch, and indeed I'm not the only one who noticed.

    Well, it isn't any big coincidence, since the 12 Terrestrial
    Branches are, of course, associated with 12 of the most
    culturally prominent and iconic animals in Chinese culture
    (including the dragon, of course).

    I just think its a stretch to claim that they are intended
    as a denotational subset of the emoji referring specifically to Chinese
    zodiacal signs.


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