Tengwar on a general purpose translation site

Mark E. Shoulson mark at kli.org
Mon Mar 14 20:37:15 CDT 2022

On 3/14/22 20:43, James Kass via Unicode wrote:
> On 2022-03-15 12:09 AM, Mark E. Shoulson via Unicode wrote:
>>> Meanwhile, the encoding should avoid any mention of Tolkien, his 
>>> works, his art, his glyphs, and his critters. 
>> If you don't mention them, how are you describing what the character 
>> refers to?
> It's an abstract character with a unique name.

Yeah, but WHICH abstract character?  It could be _anything_. Maybe it's 
TINCO, maybe it's PARMA, maybe CALMA.  Maybe PIQAD LETTER A.  Maybe 
SEUSSIAN LETTER WUM.  It could be anything, so it's nothing.  It only is 
something if people unofficially and informally agree that it's 
something.  Which is exactly what the PUA is and does.  If the standard 
doesn't say what it is, then as far as the standard is concerned, it 
could be anything, which doesn't get us very far.

If the standard calls it LETTER 001 and mentions in the text that it 
corresponds to tengwar, that's another matter.  Then the standard would 
be defining it and stating what it is and what it isn't.  But then as 
far as the Tolkien people are concerned, it might as be named TENGWAR 
LETTER TINCO.  Or at least, as far as the Tolkien people might be 
concerned, in the Unicode consortium's mind and fears.  We can't have it 
both ways.  Anything sufficient to be not-PUA is enough to arouse 
corporate ire.

> The suggestion was put forward with the idea of expunging any 
> reference to anybody's intellectual property, thereby eliminating any 
> risk of any estate getting sand in their knickers.
> Of course it is not an optimal solution, interim workarounds seldom are.

The only possible advantage I can see to this is that _someday_ the 
characters will be able to be encoded officially, and they'll already be 
in place.  But with the wrong names.  In the meantime, they're 
essentially private-use characters with unofficial mappings, like CSUR.  
Just that the CSUR-encoded text doesn't become obsolete when the 
official encodings happen.  I don't know if that's enough of a plus to 

> Tolkien didn't invent the concept of abstract characters.

Nobody said he did.  But he did invent a set of abstract characters, and 
that's the problem.


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