moyogo's little blog

Blogging about Open Source, fonts, language technology, maps and random stuff happening wherever I am.


Locales mess up typography

If you're familiar with computers and their multilingual capabilities (or deficiencies), you already know what locales are. Let me tell you... even though they can be very painful to deal with, they're just the tip of the iceberg.

There are so many things that can change from on country to the other. For example: in French, we can't seem to agree how to write down numbers. Is 75000 written 75'000, 75.000 or 75 000 (with a non breakable space)? Apparently some scientific standard organisation settled for the last, leaving the choice to use comma or period as decimal separator, i.e., 1 and a half would be 1,5 in French and 1.5 in English but both should use 75 000.

The other frustrating thing is things like names of places. It seems in Canada and in France the convention is to hyphenate everything. You end up with thing like avenue Mont-Royal, or rue Victor-Hugo, or Stade Jean-Bouin. Even if I've been used to write or read Mont-Royal I must say I find the other exemples utterly weird. That's due to Belgium's convention not to use the hyphen. In Belgium we have stuff like boulevard Adolphe Max, or stade roi Baudouin, no hyphen there.

Now the question arises, what is used in other countries? Can I trust what I see on the web for places like in the Congo DRC? Should we apply the rules of the former colonial power, thus having Congo-Brazzaville vs. Congo Kinshasa.

Another annoying one is the French quotes. In France you seem to have to use a space around each quote so you have stuff like « guillemet en France ». In Switzerland, you don't, you simply leave no space between the quotemark and the embedded text like «guillemet en Suisse». On top of that, French conventions have spaces around question and exclamation marks as well as colon and semi-colon, but Canadian French don't.

Anyway, that was my rant of the day... English is no better with Amercian vs British conventions.


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