Re: Too narrowly defined: DIVISION SIGN & COLON

From: Jukka K. Korpela <>
Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2012 15:14:56 +0300

2012-07-09 11:39, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:

> Btw, I can say that when using calculators (which tend to use the '÷'
> as a DIVISION rather than as MINUS/subtraction), then I often get
> confused - if if is a calculator I'm not familar with: Is that key a

In practice, it’s always a symbol of division in calculators.

>> Adding new characters would be possible in principle, but hardly
>> realistic or useful in this case. They would not change the bulk of
>> existing data that uses existing characters, and they would just add
>> to the confusion rather than remove it.
> Could not 'DIVISION SLASH' have been dismissed by the same argument?

Back in the early 1990s (DIVISION SLASH was adopted into Unicode in
version 1.1 in 1993), it might have been possible to present such an
argument against it. The database entry says that
DIVISION SLASH is/was present in “VENTURA_SYM” encoding (“charset”), and
presence in an existing encoding was surely a strong argument in favor
of accepting a character. Moreover, DIVISION SLASH is not just SOLIDUS
with more exact semantics; the characters are typically clearly
different, DIVISION SLASH being much more slanted.

But this precedent demonstrates that narrow semantics does not make
characters popular. Most people and documents use “/” for division (and
this is supported by a normative rule in ISO 80000-2), without ever
considering the possibility of using DIVISION SLASH or even knowing
about it at all. Yet, this character has existed in Unicode for almost
20 years.

Semantic disambiguation just doesn’t work, as a rule. Far from being
“the” division slash, DIVISION SLASH exists in Unicode for use when you
wish to use it. If you ask me, it could be used for clarity, in
situations where this matters and where you can know for sure that the
font(s) being used contain the character.

> I'd say that the purpose should be to take
> the consequence of a realization that it is a independent character.

But that’s a fairly theoretical, even ideological purpose.

> (But I guess, as well, that it would be legitimate, for a font
> designer, to make a 'MINUS' which was shaped as a DIVISION MINUS?)

No, because that would distort the identity of the character. It is an
error to make a character intentionally look like another character. But
it’s not a punishable crime, and font designers make such mistakes.

> But before landing on that conclusion, I would like to point out that
> if one added new characters, then one would get annotation, _as well_

It would create separate entries, but this does not imply any
annotations by default. The annotations are there because decisions were
made to include them.

Received on Mon Jul 09 2012 - 07:19:22 CDT

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