TZ database content

Robert Elz kre at munnari.OZ.AU
Sun Feb 11 18:50:35 UTC 2001

    Date:        Sun, 11 Feb 2001 09:30:39 -0800
    From:        "John A. Halloran" <seagoat at>
    Message-ID:  < at>

  | There are good reasons for developing standardized time zone abbreviations.

There may be, and if you're just going to bury them somewhere invisible
then there might be some point in doing this.  But if you're going to
expose them to humans, then unless you're going to adopt the abbreviations
that the humans already use (which very often is nothing at all) then
you're fighting social inertia, and no matter what any standards body
might try and say, that is just about impossible to win.

Eg: the "officially blessed" label for the US currency unit is USD.
For Australia it is AUD.  When was the last time you saw something
in a US shop that carried the price in USD rather than $ ?   I know
have never seen anything in Australia that has AUD - they're all $.
The '$' is ambigious, but it is what we (both) use every day, and
other than in those few environments where dealing with multiple
currencies is commonplace (currency exchanges and such) and occasionally
in those countries where there are lots of close international borders
no-one takes any notice of the unique labels.

Even in the US, which has Canada, also with $, just to the north,
you don't see the international labels, instead prices are printed
as "$6.99 - in Canada $8.99" (or whatever).

If someone was to go pick standard zone names, the likely outcome would
be to use the 2 letter country code, with a one letter prefix indicating
the zone within the country, so for the US there might end up being
USE (-0500) USD (-0400) USC (-0600) USB (-0400) USM (-0700) USN (-0600)
USP (-0800) USQ (-0700) and USH (-1000 or whatever it is).

Nothing like "EST" ...

Your average human doesn't want to know a timezone, they just want to
know either "what was the time here when this happened", or "what was the
time there when that was done".   You don't have to tell them where
here or there are - they know that already.

The language codes you quoted are a good example - they're buried in
software or databases somewhere, humans never want to see them, they
know languages as "English", "Deutcsh", ...  (and the variations that
are American English (US English really) and Swiss German, etc, just
get either ignored, or handled by context.


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