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

John Cowan cowan at
Fri May 30 09:37:01 CEST 2003

John Clews scripsit:

> 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.

True, but I'm willing to bet that if a tag were issued (and en-gb-oxford
sounds like Oxfordshire to me; I think en-gb-oed is better), a word in
the right quarter would get a spelling list created in short order,
at least in the free software community.

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

It's essentially a variant of en-gb.

> 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.

Or the ISO family of organizations!

> 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.

Hence the utility of a code.  If you mark up your document with en-gb-oed,
OED spellchecking should be applied to it automatically, and no matter
if you are the original author of the document or not.

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

Canadians can tell you just how annoying that particular binary choice is.

> In each case it's obvious what is meant, if you can read English.

Well, I don't know: when I posted the "tire centre" example to another
mailing list, a British participant said it made him think of a place
where people go to get tired.

> And (in passing) do Canadians use "tyre" to spell the word for the
> rubber things on wheels?

No; that was the point of the example.

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

You seem to have omitted the actual cases.

> Most language tags are for use in browsers, 

That's *one* application.

> 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."

Well, my browser (if it were as smart as you are talking about) would
change that to "American English spells words differently from British
English."  "Different to" grates on American sensibilities as much as
American spellings do on Brits -- it looks not so much foreign as
plain wrong.  (I know better, obviously, but most of my compatriots
do not -- then again, most of them write "different than", barbarously.
Tempora mutantur, nos et *non* mutamur in illis.)

No, I don't think automatic orthography translation is either practical
or worth doing.

>     "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."

I don't see how en-gb-oed makes this example any worse.  All of those
words are spelled the same in en-gb and en-gb-oed.

> 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.

RFC 3066 is about the representation of languages, not the purpose to
which those representations are applied.

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

I believe that because it meets the formal requirements it should go

> Best regards

Or in en-us, "Have a nice day."  :-)

John Cowan      jcowan at
        "Not to know The Smiths is not to know K.X.U."  --K.X.U.

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