[tz] "time zone" vs "timezone" in documentation

Philip Paeps philip at trouble.is
Fri Jun 22 18:21:36 UTC 2018

On 2018-06-22 18:18:36 (+0200), Paul Eggert wrote:

> [I am cc'ing this to the tz mailing list (and changing the subject 
> line) to give tz readers a heads-up about the terminology issue. The 
> question here is: should tzdb man pages say "time zone" or "timezone"?
> For context please see Michael Kerrisk's email 
> <https://marc.info/?m=152964652828320>, which says:
>> When I inherited the project, the pages used a mixture of "time zone" 
>> and "timezone", with the former predominant. I nevertheless 
>> standardized on the latter, and although I don't recall for sure, I 
>> suspect it was because that is the spelling used in POSIX. (As an 
>> aside, there's an argument that--because POSIX--tzdb might want to 
>> consider switching spellings.) I'm not religious about the particular 
>> choice (although I have naturally now got used to the particular 
>> choice I made some years ago), but I did make that choice because I 
>> want consistency within the project, and I'm reluctant to introduce 
>> inconsistency.
> and my response <https://marc.info/?m=152964676331902>, which says:
>> I deferred to POSIX for "timestamp" versus "time stamp", but 
>> "timezone" is a bridge too far for me.
> ]
> On second thought, perhaps I was too hasty. We could distinguish "time 
> zone" in the usual English-language sense (a set of geographic 
> locations that currently share the same standard time offset from UTC) 
> from "timezone" in the POSIX sense (a history and predicted future of 
> UTC offsets, abbreviations and isdst flags). If so, the tzdb 
> documentation could be more careful about using "time zone" for the 
> former and "timezone" for the latter, and this would make for fewer 
> changes to the GNU/Linux man-pages for tzdb. I can look into this and 
> propose an updated set of tzdb-related patches accordingly.

This sounds like a good idea.  Consistency is important.

> If I were designing the terminology from scratch, I wouldn't specify 
> two nearly-identical phrases "time zone" and "timezone" to mean such 
> different things. However, the phrases do have the advantage of 
> existing practice (common English usage and POSIX, respectively).

Clearly, POSIX and English are different languages. :)

(I feel sharp stabbing sensations in my eyes every time I encounter a 
timestamp or a timezone (or a filesystem, for that matter)).


Philip Paeps
Senior Reality Engineer
Ministry of Information

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