CLDR, emoji flags, and ISO 3166 (was: Re: BES island flags)

Doug Ewell doug at
Fri Sep 25 14:29:12 CDT 2020

Christoph Päper replied to Andrew West:

>> 'UK' and 'GB' will both be wrong when Scotland becomes independent,
>> as seems increasingly likely.
> Which is just another fact to prove that introducing emoji flags based
> upon ISO 3166-2 codes (i.e. thousands) was premature. Using user-
> defined ISO 3166-1 codes would have sufficed for the currently three
> (or four) subordinate entities that were actually needed.

I don't think I see the connection.

Andrew's point was that, IF one considers the ISO 3166-1 code elements to be mnemonic abbreviations, neither "United Kingdom" nor "Great Britain" would furnish an appropriate mnemonic if and when Scotland leaves that entity.

Of course, ISO 3166-1 code elements are never guaranteed to be mnemonic abbreviations. The argument about 'GB' not being inclusive of Northern Ireland is an old and tired one. As Harriet Riddle noted earlier, the ISO 3166-1 code element 'GB' represents the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If you like, the 'G' and 'B' can be seen as "standing for" two of the letters in that name, but the code element represents the entire country. That is all there is to it.

Using ISO 3166-2 code elements to represent flags of entities smaller than an ISO 3166-1 country (such as Colorado, Baden-Württemberg, or England) has nothing to do with this.

To the rest of Christoph's response: there are real costs to exposing user-defined code elements in a public standard (I wish CLDR had not put its foot in this doorway with 'XK'), and I question that the only use for subdivision coding in CLDR or in emoji flags was to distinguish England, Scotland, and Wales.

Doug Ewell, CC, ALB | Thornton, CO, US |

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