New Last Call: 'Tags for Identifying Languages' to BCP

John Cowan jcowan at
Mon Dec 13 13:58:48 CET 2004

Bruce Lilly scripsit:

> If by international agreement, 'yz' becomes the designation
> for that country, then it is rather silly to stick one's
> fingers in one's ears and shout "NA-NA-NA-NA-NA I don't want
> to hear you".  

Actually, 'yz' doesn't designate the country in the ISO standard,
as I explained yesterday.  Rather, it designates the *name* of the
country, which is of course subject to change *without* international
agreement.  In RFC 1766/3066, we attempt to use it to designate
the country, which requires some straining of the concept.

> As I have pointed out, politicians change the definitions of time
> zones frequently, and those who have to deal with time zone issues
> have found a way to cope with such change without trying to declare
> international standardization organizations irrelevant.

Ah, but you kick the ball through your own goalposts here.  The
Olsen time zone system is excellent -- but it becomes so only by totally
ignoring the customary names of time zones and inventing its own!
(Thus U.S. Eastern time is named "America/New_York", e.g.)  The
customary names are carried only as time zone abbreviations such as
"EST", which are not unique, are English-only, and most of which are
also made up.  (Countries with a single time zone generally don't
bother with an official name for it, with some obvious exceptions.)

> It's rather silly to change that correspondence simply because
> a few people are piqued that international agreement has been
> reached to change a few 2-letter codes.

Not much of an international agreement, really.

Samuel Johnson on playing the violin:           John Cowan
"Difficult do you call it, Sir?                 jcowan at
 I wish it were impossible."          

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