Emoji characters for food allergens

Asmus Freytag (t) asmus-inc at ix.netcom.com
Mon Aug 3 18:14:57 CDT 2015

Nice anecdote.

I share the concerns you raise in your reflection on the limits of 
shared conventions. Unicode cannot be so constrained that it encodes 
only universally accepted icons, but it should be constrained to not 
encode characters on foot of possible conventions that are not actually 
demonstrated anywhere. There's currently no convention for denoting 
allergens by emoji (pictorial renditions), so that usage is something 
that is speculative at the moment.

Not as speculative is the suggestion that certain food items should be 
added - it seems to be an acceptable principle to encode "iconic" foods. 
That would argue for emoji for milk and bread (w/o cross aliasing it as 
gluten), but not for soy beans, for example.


On 8/3/2015 3:24 PM, Peter Constable wrote:
> 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.
> Peter
> *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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