[Python-3000] Support for PEP 3131

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Sat May 26 08:37:08 CEST 2007

Josiah Carlson writes:

 > It does, but it also refuses the temptation to guess that *everyone*
 > wants to use unicode identifiers by default.  Why?  As Stephen Turnbull
 > has already stated, the majority of users will have *no use* and *no
 > exposure* to unicode identifiers.

I'm afraid I conflated two issues in that post.  I'm sorry for the

My first claim is that editor (not Python!) users indeed will be
overwhelmingly monoscript for the foreseeable future.  I'd bet serious
money on that (as long as somebody else pays for the survey to make
the judgment :-).

My second claim is that where non-ASCII identifiers are *already*
available, their use is extremely restricted, and the overwhelming
majority of programmers never encounter them.  I predict that once PEP
3131 is implemented, their overall usage in Python programs will
increase very slowly for a few years.  However, there will be pockets
of fast diffusion (CP4E in particular, including programming classes
for history majors at university and the like).

By the way, this is an example that shows that the recent injection of
the word "parochial" is truly pernicious, because it's attached to the
wrong set of arguments.

Please note, it is those pockets of Unicode adoption that are truly
parochial, not the ASCII advocates!  Those pockets can be early and
deep adopters precisely because they are small, homogeneous groups,
unconcerned with the world outside.  ASCII advocates are obviously
self-interested ("IAGNI, so *you* can't have it, it would cost me
extra effort"), but they are *not* parochial: they *know* they're
going to exchange code with other cultures, they *welcome* that
exchange, and *they do not want it hindered for "frivolous" reasons*.

Advocates of Unicode want it for themselves and their buddies, and of
course are happy to have it used by other groups---used
*independently* by *equally parochial* groups.

True, "frivolous" is a parochial evaluation of the cultural exchange
that use of Unicode identifiers can foster, but that notion of
"parochial" is on a different level.  IMHO that "cultural exchange"
level is highly relevant to the decision to implement Unicode
identifiers in some way, but it's the "code exchange" level that is
most relevant to the pace of introduction.  And that has to consider
the balance between faster growth within Unicode-using groups, versus
the facilitation of opportunistic[1] exchange among groups using the
(admittedly imperfect) lingua franca of ASCII.

[1]  Ie, when you look at someone's app and go "I wonder how she does
that?  Can I use her code in my app?"  Obviously in a formal exchange,
the identifier constituent set can and should be negotiated.

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