Language Subtag Registration

John Cowan cowan at
Fri Oct 30 16:31:26 CET 2015

Peter Constable scripsit:

> Kent, it seems to me that that would make the meaning of the subtag
> completely opaque, determined solely in a private context. In that case,
> a private-use tag would suffice.

I don't see that a tag "simple" would be opaque, just because there is no
single precise definition of it.  There is no single precise definition of
"en-us" either.

>From Lytton Strachey's _Eminent Victorians_:

    The members of the English Church had ingenuously imagined up
    to that moment that it was possible to contain in a frame of
    words the subtle essence of their complicated doctrinal system,
    involving the mysteries of the Eternal and the Infinite on the
    one hand, and the elaborate adjustments of temporal government
    on the other. They did not understand that verbal definitions
    in such a case will only perform their functions so long as
    there is no dispute about the matters which they are intended
    to define: that is to say, so long as there is no need for
    them. For generations this had been the case with the Thirty-nine
    Articles. Their drift was clear enough; and nobody bothered over
    their exact meaning. But directly someone found it important to
    give them a new and untraditional interpretation, it appeared
    that they were a mass of ambiguity, and might be twisted into
    meaning very nearly anything that anybody liked.

So it is with language tags: their drift is clear enough, and it is not
necessary to know their exact meaning.  People who are going to abuse
them will do so anyway, whatever we say or do to try and stop them.

John Cowan        cowan at
        Sound change operates regularly to produce irregularities;
        analogy operates irregularly to produce regularities.
                --E.H. Sturtevant, ca. 1945, probably at Yale

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