proposed ISO 639 change for "arn"

Michael Everson everson at
Tue Dec 11 20:16:36 CET 2012

On 11 Dec 2012, at 17:04, Peter Constable <petercon at> wrote:

> 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?

On the other hand, I'm taking this seriously. 

>>> 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, what? The user community is just screwed because of a decision some librarians made in 1998? OK, so I "note" it. What help does that give us to this problem? 

>>> (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.

Yes, yes. And your company had a swastika in its font and they got it out of the ecosystem. Has anybody used "arn" for anything? Apparently librarians haven't had much need to. And the user community isn't doing it. 

>>> Actually, Peter's other suggestion (of making it a collection code)
> It was Gerard Lang that suggested a collection.

Fine, fine. I apologize to you and to Gerard. 

>> 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.

I don't follow you. A macrolanguage is different from a collection? 

>>> 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.

So… this is going to come down to a showdown between Microsoft and the user community? Or what? 

Michael Everson *

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