Re: Regional Indicator Symbols

From: Jean-François Colson <>
Date: Sun, 03 Jun 2012 05:45:32 +0200

Le 03/06/12 00:04, Doug Ewell a écrit :
> 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 Réunion (RE, also known as FR-RE
>> in ISO-3166-2) but not for Puy-de-Dôme (FR-63, a metropolitan
>> department) or Bretagne (Brittany, FR-E, a metropolitan region which
>> has its own flag:
> Unicode doesn't define any flags.

I misunderstood that this proposal was about regional indicator symbols
which are represented by national flags.

> To answer your underlying question about why N3680 (which was not
> adopted) defined a symbol for Réunion: 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.

That wasn’t a recent proposal? I think I’ve missed something.

>> 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.

I know it. I live in a country which has three official languages and
three regions: two of the official languages are official in two
regions, but not the same, and the third language is official only in a
small part of one of the regions. (The country is Belgium and the
languages are Dutch, French and German.)
There are also languages which are used in several countries, such as
German which is spoken in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein,
Luxembourg and Belgium.

> There are better ways.

I was refering to Doug Ewell, 31/05/12 21:00 CEST:
> One possible problem with either (a) encoding flags or (b) encouraging
> the display of Regional Indicator Symbols as flags is that some authors
> would want to use them to indicate the language of the text that
> follows. I'm not talking about inline, plain-text "language tagging" in
> the sense that UTC frowns upon, but literally a visual display of a
> flag.
> It's common, particularly in Europe, to see English-language text marked
> with a Union Jack, French-language text marked with the flag of France,
> and so forth. Of course, we all know the problems with using national
> flags to indicate languages, but it's common practice nevertheless.
> Having Unicode characters for flags, especially well-supported ones,
> might encourage this practice.
> Of course, the Japanese phone users might have been doing this all along
> with the existing 10 emoji flags.
> --
> Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA
> | @DougEwell ­

>> 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
> years.

Glad to read that. Wikipedia needs an update. What’s your source? Do you
have a copy of the last version of the standard?

>> 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.

Nice! But that is restricted to two-letter codes. That system provides
no way to encode the flag of Québec.
Phillipe’s system would be more comprehensive.

> --
> Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA
> | @DougEwell ­
Received on Sat Jun 02 2012 - 22:51:08 CDT

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