Re: Too narrowly defined: DIVISION SIGN & COLON

From: Asmus Freytag <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2012 12:30:06 -0700

On 7/10/2012 3:50 AM, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
> Asmus Freytag, Mon, 09 Jul 2012 19:32:47 -0700:
>> The European use (this is not limited to Scandinavia)
> Thanks. It seems to me that that this tradition is not without a link
> to the (also) European tradition of *not* using the DIVISION SIGN (÷)
> for division.

Is it _ever_ used for division? I'm curious, right now I can't recall
ever having seen an example.

>> The proper thing to do would be to add these usages to the list of
>> examples of known contextually defined usages of punctuation
>> characters, they are common enough that it's worth pointing them out
>> in order to overcome a bit of the inherent bias from Anglo-Saxon
>> usage.
> (Did you intend to denote DIVISION SIGN as a punctuation character?)

It's a punctuation-like symbol. Let's leave it at that.

When it comes to rigorous division between these two classifications,
I'm uncomfortable because those depend on usage - and this thread is
another reminder that we (as maintainers of the standard) do not know
enough about actual usage to make classifications that are correct in
every instance....
> Where do I find the (existing) examples? In the PDF version of the
> spec? Or, also, in the texts files that look-up tools uses? (I guess I
> think about annotation.) For instance, would be possible, in the the
> NamesList, or some other field that look-up tools uses, to get a link
> from e.g. COLON to DIVISION SIGN, and vice versa? And similar, from
> MINUS TO DIVISION SIGN and vice versa?

I would be in favor of extending the discussion of this topic in the
text of the chapters on punctuation and symbols. Cross references are a
bit of a blunt tool because they carry no explanation (they simply say:
look here, not why the other character might be what you want).

> My candidate characters, this round, are:
> DIVISION SIGN (÷) as minus sign.
> COLON (:) as division sign.
> MIDDLE DOT (·) as multiplication symbol.
> What's next? Would some formal action be needed?

Now, about colon being used as division sign. Are you sure it's COLON
that is used there, or is it (or should it be) U+2236 RATIO instead? I
would think the latter is more likely the intended character with U+003C
COLON merely being used as a fallback (RATIO is not on any keyboard).

The same question would apply for U+00B7 MIDDLE DOT. Even if it's in
some data, is it there because it was the preferred character, or is it
merely a fallback for U+2219 BULLET OPERATOR?

I would not be surprised to find out that these characters share some of
the fate of HYPHEN-MINUS, that is, back during the time of 7 or 8-bit
character standards, it was just easier to use the fallback. (And it
still is, to some degree, because of the limitations of the basic but
widely familiar keyboard layouts).

Received on Tue Jul 10 2012 - 14:31:20 CDT

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