revision of ISO 3166

Doug Ewell dewell at
Sun Sep 5 09:50:35 CEST 2004

Markus Kuhn <Markus dot Kuhn at cl dot cam dot ac dot uk> wrote:

> Section 5.2:
>   "The alpha-2 code uses combinations, in upper case, of two letters
>   of the 26-character Roman alphabet (ignoring diacritic signs) from
>   the range AA to ZZ."
> What ISO/CD 3166-1 calls the "Roman alphabet" is referred to in ISO
> 10646 as the "Latin script". Looks like the terminology ought to be
> sorted out here between the country code and the coded character set
> committees.

What ISO 10646 calls the "Latin script" comprises more than a thousand
letters.  Perhaps the 26-letter thing that is being referred to here
should be called "the modern English alphabet."  That's what it is,

> [Side rant: I've never seen any application of the ISO 3166-1 alpha-3
> code.

I thought it was used on passports, which brought about the request to
change Romania's alpha-3 code from ROM to ROU, because Romanian citizens
supposedly didn't want their passports to identify them as Rom.

> The International Olympic Committee (IOC) maintains another
> alpha-3 country code, which differs substantially from ISO 3166-1 and
> uses in some cases the same 3-letter code (e.g., ANT) for another
> country []. Since
> fewer codes for the same application are always better than more, I
> suggest to drop the alpha-3 code, and to lobby with the IOC to use the
> ISO alpha-2 codes at international sporting events. The latter are now
> ubiquitously known worldwide through Internet domain names. Likewise,
> the contracting parties to the Conventions on Road Traffic should be
> encouraged to consider switching to ISO 3166-1 alpha-2, to reduce the
> existing confusion created by having multiple widely-used country
> codes.]

It would be nice, wouldn't it?  I remember being totally perplexed a
couple of weeks ago seeing a competitor from "ISV."  (Turns out to be
U.S. Virgin Islands... the ISO alpha-3 code VIR would have been much
more obvious.)

I don't know if you'd be able to persuade the tradition-loving IOC to
make the big switch from 3-letter to 2-letter codes, but they might
consider a less drastic switch from their own proprietary 3-letter codes
to the ISO 3-letter codes.

The car code issue reminds me of how ISO 3166/MA set aside ROU as an
"indeterminately reserved" code element because of its use as a car code
for (Republic Of) Uruguay -- stating clearly, "Any use beyond the
application of the two [United Nations] Conventions [on Road Traffic] is
discouraged and will not be approved by the ISO 3166/MA" -- but then
turned around and assigned it as a replacement for ROM.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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