Registration of el-Latn language tag

Doug Ewell dewell at
Thu Sep 29 17:09:41 CEST 2005

Marion Gunn <mgunn at egt dot ie> wrote:

>> Personally, I disagree with your en-GB example. From a linguistic
>> standpoint, maybe it is english from the UK....
> No maybe about it, Tex - you are right to cast doubt on what would be
> a linguistic and geographical impossibility, because 'GB' only means
> 'Great Britain', which is a different geo/ling entity from "UK" which
> means "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (a
> matter already dealt with years ago on this and/or related lists).

Then it's surprising you don't remember the outcome of that discussion,
years ago.  GB stands for "United Kingdom," the *whole* United Kingdom,
including the top part of the second-largest island in the group.

>From the current ISO 3166 Web site:


>From the 2004-06-17 committee draft to update ISO 3166-1:

> English short name:  UNITED KINGDOM
> English short name lower case:  United Kingdom (the)
> English full name:  the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
>  Ireland
> Alpha-2 code:  GB
> Alpha-3 code:  GBR
> Numeric code:  826
> Remarks:  Includes the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man
> Independent:  *
> Official language alpha-2:  en
> Official language alpha-3:  eng
> Local short name:  United Kingdom (the)

And from draft-initial-05:

> Type: region
> Subtag: GB
> Description: United Kingdom
> Added: 2005-08-16

Marion added:

> Meaning, instead of just fixing wrong encodings, just use them to try
> to change reality? Hardly a new idea.:-)

ISO 3166-1 codes are not necessarily abbreviations for "best" country
names.  They "represent" country names; they don't necessarily "stand
for" anything in a mnemonic sense.  GB is no more a "wrong encoding" for
the United Kingdom than EH is for Western Sahara, or YT for Mayotte.  If
ISO 3166/MA were trying to "change reality," they would do so in the
name and not the code.

Arguments like this one, that ISO 3166-1 code elements must be as
mnemonic as possible, are probably what led the MA to the infamous
decision to recycle CS for Serbia and Montenegro instead of choosing a
"fresh" code element like SP, which already had some popular acceptance
but which could be viewed by zealots as excluding Montenegro (SR =

Doug Ewell
Fullerton, California

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