Pros and cons of adding a en-GB-oxford language tag

John Clews Scripts2 at
Fri May 30 09:38:05 CEST 2003

I'm torn on en-gb-oxford, for various reasons. I'd like to explore
some pros and cons.

> Doug Ewell scripsit:
> > How does this differ from en-CA?  (This is a real question, not a
> > rhetorical one implying the new tag should not be registered.)  I
> > believe Canadian anglophones write "colour" and "civilize".

In message <20030530044259.GI22039 at> John Cowan writes:

> en-us "tire center", en-ca "tire centre", en-gb = en-gb-oxford "tyre centre".

I agree entirely that the Oxford English Dictionary is a major
recognized standard. It's also the spelling system I prefer to use,
for the various reasons Michael Everson elaborated.

I initially thought - what a good idea: thank you Michael.

However, for various practical reasons, I think that on balance
I would argue against it, for several practical reasons.

It's proposed for dealing with written English text. Even though the
tag may exist, it doesn't follow that the spelling software for OED
English is available to a user.

For another thing, I dislike the fact that my browser currently sees
language tags, or other tags, in HTML files, and puts up a box
advising me to download something that I don't want to download, on
too many occasions already, when what I already have loaded may be

If en-gb-oxford was added, one implication might be that I had to do
this on far more HTML files that my browser looked at, slowing down
all my work when looking at the web. That would be far more annoying
than seeing alternative spellings (which happens with a fairly small
proportion of words).

In addition, people generally associate the term "Oxford English" with
a way of speaking (a spoken accent). As this could be applied to sound
files, or video files, the orthography would not apply.

If en-gb-oxford was added for an orthography, what would
en-scouse be used for? Dictionaries? Videos?

Why not en-oxford if en-scouse exists?

Should there be yet another subtag in place to say that
"the following subtag after this one relates to orthography", or
"the following subtag after this one relates to the spoken form of
the language"?

Why is the -gb part significant if "Oxford English Dictionary" if
OED English has such widespread international use?

Again, I also associate the consistent use of "-ization" together
with "colour" etc with publications of the organizations of the
United Nations family of organizations.

Their style source may or may not be the OED, I don't know.
Perhaps a subtag different to -oxford (or to -oed) may be useful.

[In passing, should the de-de-1901 tags etc have included a subtag
-duden-1901? Should -larousse be introduced as a subtag for any
more detailed specifications for French that might be proposed i the

What may be better would be to encourage developers of spellcheck
software and spellcheck subroutines within applications to provide
for more alternative dictionaries if there is a requirement.

A choice of "British English" and "American English" would be
sufficient for most purposes.

> en-us "tire center", en-ca "tire centre", en-gb = en-gb-oxford "tyre centre".

In each case it's obvious what is meant, if you can read English.
And (in passing) do Canadians use "tyre" to spell the word for the
rubber things on wheels?

Also most _users_ would "accept language" in all cases (in terms of
understanding the meaning) in all the following cases:

Most language tags are for use in browsers, rather than for editing
text. Do we want browsers somehow to change text (and how would we do
it?) What would happen if a browser displayed the text

    "American English spells words differently to British English.
    Tire, center, and color are examples in American English.
    Tyre, centre, and colour are examples in British English."

If markup was sloppy (or just used "en") after en-gb-oxford was
introduced, this could end up with text looking like

    "American English spells words differently to British English.
    Tyre, centre, and colour are examples in American English."
    Tyre, centre, and colour are examples in British English."

if browsers were programmed to display things differently.

However, if markup was sloppy (or just used "en") but en-gb-oxford was
NOT introduced, this would not cause such problems.

These conventions - for allocating spelling conventions - should be
in the editig tools, such as spellcheckers, not as a general
mechanism that could be used in browsers.

For language tags, I think that this is a case of over-granularity.

However, we should now have some experience with all this since the
various "country-Duden-date" tags were introduced.

Who is using them? What are the effects on browsers, or on software
introduced to deal with them?

I'd be very interested to hear, and it would give some similar
experience to enable a better decision on en-gb-oxford as to the pros
and cons of this.

My feeling is that en-gb-oxford is not a thing for language tags at
present, and that this request may (though put forward with the best
of intentions) be asking for language tag mechanisms to do too much.

I would argue against adding en-gb-oxford until most of those
problems can be overcome.

Best regards

John Clews

John Clews,
Keytempo Limited (Information Management),
8 Avenue Rd, Harrogate, HG2 7PG
Tel:    +44 1423 888 432
mobile: +44 7766 711 395
Email:  Scripts2 at

Committee Member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC22/WG20: Internationalization;
Committee Member of ISO/TC37/SC2/WG1: Language Codes

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