Regional Indicator Symbols

From: Doug Ewell <>
Date: Sat, 2 Jun 2012 16:04:50 -0600

Disclaimer: This post does not propose or encourage any new mechanisms
for Unicode.

Jean-François Colson wrote:

> Here is why I don’t like n3680.

N3680 is moot. The Regional Indicator Symbols at U+1F1E6 through
U+1F1FF, based on N3727, were encoded in Unicode 6.0 instead.

> ISO-3166-1 defines two-letter symbols for many “pieces of earth” which
> are not independent countries.
> For example, there’s an ISO-3166-1 symbol for Réunion, an overseas
> department of France.
> Why would Unicode define a flag for RĂ©union (RE, also known as FR-RE
> in ISO-3166-2) but not for Puy-de-DĂ´me (FR-63, a metropolitan
> department) or Bretagne (Brittany, FR-E, a metropolitan region which
> has its own flag:

Unicode doesn't define any flags.

To answer your underlying question about why N3680 (which was not
adopted) defined a symbol for RĂ©union: because N3680 was based strictly
on which entities were assigned a code element in ISO 3166-1. Every
individual and organization that tries to second-guess ISO 3166/MA, and
make their own judgments as to what is and isn't a country, runs into
the same problems that the MA has already dealt with. It's almost never
black and white. The best thing to do in 99.9% of cases is to follow ISO
3166-1, and point to it when someone criticizes.

> If those flags are used for languages, Brittany has its own language:
> Breton (Brezhoneg). So, a support for ISO-3166-2 could be a good Idea.

Flags of nations should never be used to denote languages. The
relationship is not even close to 1-to-1. There are better ways.

> Also, the flag of Québec (CA-QC,
> could be used to make a difference between European and Canadian
> French.

There is a whole wide, wonderful world surrounding the use of standard
codes to identify languages. It's called "language tagging" and if you
are interested, read IETF BCP 47 (RFC 5646 and 4647) or visit the
ietf-languages mailing list.

The short answer is that French generically is "fr", French as spoken in
France is "fr-FR", Canadian French is "fr-CA", and if you can manage to
pin down exactly what "European French" means, that would be "fr-150".

Using this mechanism, the best way to identify (for example) Canadian
French content is with the Basic Latin letters "fr-CA" — NOT with an
image of a Canadian flag or any other flag.

> Unicode is supposed to be a stable standard: any new character will
> remain always and forever.
> ISO-3166 is not stable enough to be encoded as it is in Unicode:
> countries may change their names, countries may merge together,
> countried may be divided into several parts.
> In any case, new two-letter codes may be created, existing ones may
> become obsolete and, most problematic, when a two-letter code has been
> obsolete for at least 5 years, IT MAY BE USED FOR ANOTHER COUNTRY.

ISO 3166-1 was updated several years ago to change this period to 50

> For these reasons, I think the system proposed by Philippe Verdy would
> be better suited to encode flags: the codes would have no meaning by
> themselves, but their combinations would be displayed as flags,
> whenever possible, by the rendering engine.

Read . This mechanism is
part of Unicode, and adding another one such as Philippe's to accomplish
basically the same thing would be a form of duplicate encoding.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA | @DougEwell ­
Received on Sat Jun 02 2012 - 17:07:03 CDT

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