Emoji characters for food allergens

Peter Constable petercon at microsoft.com
Mon Aug 3 17:24:25 CDT 2015

Once back when I was living in Thailand, I was riding in a taxi to the Bangkok airport on a recently-opened highway. There were road signs posted at intervals that had a two-digit number (“60” or something like that) enclosed in a circle. Having had enough experience with road signage in my home country and also other countries, I recognized this to be a speed limit.

But knowing common practices for how many Thais at the time would obtain their driver’s license, and the education level of many Thais coming from rural areas to work as taxi drivers in Bangkok,  I was curious enough to ask the driver what the sign meant. (He being monolingual, this was all in Thai.) He thought for a moment and then responded that it was the distance to the airport.

Anecdote aside, the assumption of these discussions is that symbols are iconic — which means that the symbol communicates a conventional semantic. And the point of this being _conventional_ is that the semantic is not self-evident from the appearance of the image, but rather is based on a shared agreement. For example, a photograph of a chair is not iconic since it is an ostensive rendition of an actual chair. But a symbol of an iron with a dot inside it intended to mean “can be ironed with low heat” is iconic because it’s meaning is conventional, and like any convention, must be learned.

Some conventions may be universally learned, but very few are. Most are limited to particular cultures, and even if used in many cultures, may be learned by only small portions of the given culture. Even something like a speed limit sign that a driver without a given culture sees every day and is expected to understand is not necessarily something that the driver has learned. Much less something like icons for handling of laundry, which have been used in several countries for a few decades now but that nobody has ever been required to learn, and that few people actually do learn to any great extent.


From: Unicode [mailto:unicode-bounces at unicode.org] On Behalf Of Asmus Freytag (t)
Sent: Monday, August 3, 2015 12:01 PM
To: unicode at unicode.org
Subject: Re: Emoji characters for food allergens

I'm sorry to really disagree with this little understandable criticism of laundry symbols. The most encountered of the care tags are self-explaining, as the washing and iron temperature limits or discouraging. The other symbols mainly concern dry cleaning and laundry professionals.

The laundry symbols are like traffic signs. The ones you see daily aren't difficult to remember, but any there are always some rare ones that are a bit baffling. What you apparently do not realize is that in significant parts of the world, these symbols are not common (or occur only as adjunct to text). There's therefore no daily reinforcement at all.

Where you live, the situation is reversed; no wonder you are baffled.

All chefs understand English,

I would regard that statement to have a very high probability of being wrong. Which would make any conclusions based on it invalid.

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