proposed ISO 639 change for "arn"

Peter Constable petercon at
Tue Dec 11 18:04:38 CET 2012

From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Michael Everson

>> ... whether we like it or not, "araucano" is equivalent to "nigger".

You know, a lot of young blacks in the USA regularly use "nigger". What happens if three generations from now young Mapudunguns decide that "mxx" is offensive?

>> I agree with Mark that withdrawing the old code ...

Note that ISO 639-3 does not un-define codes. No matter what happens, "arn" will continue to be valid in ISO 639-3 with a meaning that encompasses Mapudungun.

>> (and thus deprecating it in our registry) would be problematic 
>> for implementers (including the librarians) and should be avoided 
>> if possible: having only a small number of identified items using 
>> the code in one or another place doesn't mean that it's an easy fix.

A small number of items in some library database isn't even the tip of the iceberg. For instance, since Windows and .Net have supported "arn" through multiple versions now, there may be many, many thousands of software libraries that need to interoperate with that. If Mapudungun gets re-encoded, then all of those implementations have a new interop problem since they'd need to recognize the equivalent new ID. And that's just the Windows ecosystem.

>> Actually, Peter's other suggestion (of making it a collection code)

It was Gerard Lang that suggested a collection.

> A collection of what? The same two languages subsumed under 
> "Araucanian languages"? (I'm not arguing against it, just not sure 
> what the ramification is.)

Yes, that's the ramification wrt denotations. But there are worse ramifications. I really dislike that option.

>> Windows has shipped support for Mapudungun using "arn" in 
>> around a billion PCs. I can't exactly make that go away.

> I appreciate the difficulty, but once upon a time MS shipped a font 
> with some Hindu swastikas in it. This caused offence to some users, 
> and a patch was issued which replaced that font by a font without 
> those glyphs in it. 

If that's the comparison you're making, then I don't think you really do appreciate the difficulty. 

There definitely is no way to make Windows _stop_ recognizing "arn". But even getting Windows to start also recognizing some new ID means not only costly engineering for Windows but also considering the costly implications for thousands of implementations that need to interop with Windows.


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