[Python-ideas] PEP 538: Coercing the legacy C locale to C.UTF-8

Nick Coghlan ncoghlan at gmail.com
Sat Jan 7 06:50:48 EST 2017

Hi folks,

Many of you would have seen Victor's recent PEP proposing the
introduction a new "UTF-8" mode that told Python to use UTF-8 by
default in the legacy C locale (similar to the way CPython behaves on
Mac OS X, Android and iOS), as well as allowing explicit selection of
that mode regardless of the current locale settings.

That was prompted by my proposal in PEP 538 to start coercing the
legacy C locale to C.UTF-8 (when we have the ability and opportunity
to do so), and otherwise at least warn that we don't expect the legacy
C locale to work properly. That PEP has now been through its initial
round of review on the Python Linux SIG, and updated to address both
the feedback received there, as well as some of the points Victor
raised in PEP 540.

The rendered version is available at
https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0538/ and the plain text version
is included inline below.

Folks that have already read PEP 540 may want to start with the new
section that looks at the way the two PEPs are potentially
complementary to each other rather than competitive:

In particular, the approach in PEP 540 may be a better last resort
alternative than setting "LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8" on platforms that
don't provide either C.UTF-8 or C.utf8 (which is what the current
draft of PEP 538 proposes)


PEP: 538
Title: Coercing the legacy C locale to C.UTF-8
Version: $Revision$
Last-Modified: $Date$
Author: Nick Coghlan <ncoghlan at gmail.com>
Status: Draft
Type: Standards Track
Content-Type: text/x-rst
Created: 28-Dec-2016
Python-Version: 3.7


An ongoing challenge with Python 3 on \*nix systems is the conflict between
needing to use the configured locale encoding by default for consistency with
other C/C++ components in the same process and those invoked in subprocesses,
and the fact that the standard C locale (as defined in POSIX:2001) specifies
a default text encoding of ASCII, which is entirely inadequate for the
development of networked services and client applications in a multilingual

This PEP proposes that the way the CPython implementation handles the default
C locale be changed such that:

* the standalone CPython binary will automatically attempt to coerce the ``C``
  locale to ``C.UTF-8`` (preferred), ``C.utf8`` or ``en_US.UTF-8`` unless the
  new ``PYTHONCOERCECLOCALE`` environment variable is set to ``0``
* if the subsequent runtime initialization process detects that the legacy
  ``C`` locale remains active (e.g. locale coercion is disabled, or the runtime
  is embedded in an application other than the main CPython binary), it  will
  emit a warning on stderr that use of the legacy ``C`` locale's default ASCII
  text encoding may cause various Unicode compatibility issues

Explicitly configuring the ``C.UTF-8`` or ``en_US.UTF-8`` locales has already
been used successfully for a number of years (including by the PEP author) to
get Python 3 running reliably in environments where no locale is otherwise
configured (such as Docker containers).

With this change, any \*nix platform that does *not* offer at least one of the
``C.UTF-8``, ``C.utf8`` or ``en_US.UTF-8`` locales as part of its standard
configuration would only be considered a fully supported platform for CPython
3.7+ deployments when a locale other than the default ``C`` locale is
configured explicitly.

Redistributors (such as Linux distributions) with a narrower target audience
than the upstream CPython development team may also choose to opt in to this
behaviour for the Python 3.6.x series by applying the necessary changes as a
downstream patch when first introducing Python 3.6.0.


While the CPython interpreter is starting up, it may need to convert from
the ``char *`` format to the ``wchar_t *`` format, or from one of those formats
to ``PyUnicodeObject *``, before its own text encoding handling machinery is
fully configured. It handles these cases by relying on the operating system to
do the conversion and then ensuring that the text encoding name reported by
``sys.getfilesystemencoding()`` matches the encoding used during this early
bootstrapping process.

On Apple platforms (including both Mac OS X and iOS), this is straightforward,
as Apple guarantees that these operations will always use UTF-8 to do the

On Windows, the limitations of the ``mbcs`` format used by default in these
conversions proved sufficiently problematic that PEP 528 and PEP 529 were
implemented to bypass the operating system supplied interfaces for binary data
handling and force the use of UTF-8 instead.

On Android, the locale settings are of limited relevance (due to most
applications running in the UTF-16-LE based Dalvik environment) and there's
limited value in preserving backwards compatibility with other locale aware
C/C++ components in the same process (since it's a relatively new target
platform for CPython), so CPython bypasses the operating system provided APIs
and hardcodes the use of UTF-8 (similar to its behaviour on Apple platforms).

On non-Apple and non-Android \*nix systems however, these operations are
handled using the C locale system in glibc, which has the following
characteristics [4_]:

* by default, all processes start in the ``C`` locale, which uses ``ASCII``
  for these conversions. This is almost never what anyone doing multilingual
  text processing actually wants (including CPython and C/C++ GUI frameworks).
* calling ``setlocale(LC_ALL, "")`` reconfigures the active locale based on
  the locale categories configured in the current process environment
* if the locale requested by the current environment is unknown, or no specific
  locale is configured, then the default ``C`` locale will remain active

The specific locale category that covers the APIs that CPython depends on is
``LC_CTYPE``, which applies to "classification and conversion of characters,
and to multibyte and wide characters" [5_]. Accordingly, CPython includes the
following key calls to ``setlocale``:

* in the main ``python`` binary, CPython calls ``setlocale(LC_ALL, "")`` to
  configure the entire C locale subsystem according to the process environment.
  It does this prior to making any calls into the shared CPython library
* in ``Py_Initialize``, CPython calls ``setlocale(LC_CTYPE, "")``, such that
  the configured locale settings for that category *always* match those set in
  the environment. It does this unconditionally, and it *doesn't* revert the
  process state change in ``Py_Finalize``

(This summary of the locale handling omits several technical details related
to exactly where and when the text encoding declared as part of the locale
settings is used - see PEP 540 for further discussion, as these particular
details matter more when decoupling CPython from the declared C locale than
they do when overriding the locale with one based on UTF-8)

These calls are usually sufficient to provide sensible behaviour, but they can
still fail in the following cases:

* SSH environment forwarding means that SSH clients will often forward
  client locale settings to servers that don't have that locale installed. This
  leads to CPython running in the default ASCII-based C locale
* some process environments (such as Linux containers) may not have any
  explicit locale configured at all. As with unknown locales, this leads to
  CPython running in the default ASCII-based C locale

The simplest way to deal with this problem for currently released versions of
CPython is to explicitly set a more sensible locale when launching the
application. For example::

    LC_ALL=C.UTF-8 LANG=C.UTF-8 python3 ...

In the specific case of Docker containers and similar technologies, the
appropriate locale setting can be specified directly in the container image

Another common failure case is developers specifying ``LANG=C`` in order to
see otherwise translated user interface messages in English, rather than the
more narrowly scoped ``LC_MESSAGES=C``.

Relationship with other PEPs

This PEP shares a common problem statement with PEP 540 (improving Python 3's
behaviour in the default C locale), but diverges markedly in the proposed

* PEP 540 proposes to entirely decouple CPython's default text encoding from
  the C locale system in that case, allowing text handling inconsistencies to
  arise between CPython and other C/C++ components running in the same process
  and in subprocesses. This approach aims to make CPython behave less like a
  locale-aware C/C++ application, and more like C/C++ independent language
  runtimes like the JVM, .NET CLR, Go, Node.js, and Rust
* this PEP proposes to instead override the legacy C locale with a more recently
  defined locale that uses UTF-8 as its default text encoding. This means that
  the text encoding override will apply not only to CPython, but also to any
  locale aware extension modules loaded into the current process, as well as to
  locale aware C/C++ applications invoked in subprocesses that inherit their
  environment from the parent process. This approach aims to retain CPython's
  traditional strong support for integration with other components written
  in C and C++, while actively helping to push forward the adoption and
  standardisation of the C.UTF-8 locale as a Unicode-aware replacement for
  the legacy C locale

While the two PEPs present alternate proposed behavioural improvements that
align with the interests of different parts of the Python user community, they
don't actually conflict at a technical level.

That means it would be entirely possible to implement both of them, and end up
with a situation where redistributors, application integrators, and end users
can choose between:

* coercing the default ASCII based C locale to a UTF-8 based locale
* instructing CPython to ignore the C locale and use UTF-8 instead
* doing both of the above (with this option as the default legacy C locale
* forcing use of the default ASCII based C locale by setting both

If this approach was taken, then the proposed modifications to PEP 11 would
be adjusted to indicate that the only unsupported configurations are those where
both the legacy C locale coercion and the C locale text encoding bypass are

Given such a hybrid implementation, it would also be reasonable to drop the
``en_US.UTF-8`` legacy fallback from the list of UTF-8 locales tried as a
coercion target and instead rely solely on the C locale text encoding bypass
in such cases.


While Linux container technologies like Docker, Kubernetes, and OpenShift are
best known for their use in web service development, the related container
formats and execution models are also being adopted for Linux command line
application development. Technologies like Gnome Flatpak [7_] and
Ubunty Snappy [8_] further aim to bring these same techniques to Linux GUI
application development.

When using Python 3 for application development in
these contexts, it isn't uncommon to see text encoding related errors akin to
the following::

    $ docker run --rm fedora:25 python3 -c 'print("ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ")'
    Unable to decode the command from the command line:
    UnicodeEncodeError: 'utf-8' codec can't encode character '\udce2'
in position 7: surrogates not allowed
    $ docker run --rm ncoghlan/debian-python python3 -c 'print("ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ")'
    Unable to decode the command from the command line:
    UnicodeEncodeError: 'utf-8' codec can't encode character '\udce2'
in position 7: surrogates not allowed

Even though the same command is likely to work fine when run locally::

    $ python3 -c 'print("ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ")'

The source of the problem can be seen by instead running the ``locale`` command
in the three environments::

    $ locale | grep -E 'LC_ALL|LC_CTYPE|LANG'
    $ docker run --rm fedora:25 locale | grep -E 'LC_ALL|LC_CTYPE|LANG'
    $ docker run --rm ncoghlan/debian-python locale | grep -E

In this particular example, we can see that the host system locale is set to
"en_AU.UTF-8", so CPython uses UTF-8 as the default text encoding. By contrast,
the base Docker images for Fedora and Debian don't have any specific locale
set, so they use the POSIX locale by default, which is an alias for the
ASCII-based default C locale.

The simplest way to get Python 3 (regardless of the exact version) to behave
sensibly in Fedora and Debian based containers is to run it in the ``C.UTF-8``
locale that both distros provide::

    $ docker run --rm -e LANG=C.UTF-8 fedora:25 python3 -c 'print("ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ")'
    $ docker run --rm -e LANG=C.UTF-8 ncoghlan/debian-python python3
-c 'print("ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ")'

    $ docker run --rm -e LANG=C.UTF-8 fedora:25 locale | grep -E
    $ docker run --rm -e LANG=C.UTF-8 ncoghlan/debian-python locale |

The Alpine Linux based Python images provided by Docker, Inc, already use the
C.UTF-8 locale by default::

    $ docker run --rm python:3 python3 -c 'print("ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ")'
    $ docker run --rm python:3 locale | grep -E 'LC_ALL|LC_CTYPE|LANG'

Similarly, for custom container images (i.e. those adding additional content on
top of a base distro image), a more suitable locale can be set in the image
definition so everything just works by default. However, it would provide a much
nicer and more consistent user experience if CPython were able to just deal
with this problem automatically rather than relying on redistributors or end
users to handle it through system configuration changes.

While the glibc developers are working towards making the C.UTF-8 locale
universally available for use by glibc based applications like CPython [6_],
this unfortunately doesn't help on platforms that ship older versions of glibc
without that feature, and also don't provide C.UTF-8 as an on-disk locale the
way Debian and Fedora do. For these platforms, the best widely available
fallback option is the ``en_US.UTF-8`` locale, which while still being
unfortunately Anglo-centric, is at least significantly less Anglo-centric than
the ASCII text encoding assumption in the default C locale.

In the specific case of C locale coercion, the Anglo-centrism implied by the
use of ``en_US.UTF-8`` can be mitigated by configuring only the ``LC_CTYPE``
locale category, rather than overriding all the locale categories::

    $ docker run --rm -e LANG=C.UTF-8 centos/python-35-centos7 python3
-c 'print("ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ")'
    Unable to decode the command from the command line:
    UnicodeEncodeError: 'utf-8' codec can't encode character '\udce2'
in position 7: surrogates not allowed

    $ docker run --rm -e LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8 centos/python-35-centos7
python3 -c 'print("ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ")'


To better handle the cases where CPython would otherwise end up attempting
to operate in the ``C`` locale, this PEP proposes that CPython automatically
attempt to coerce the legacy ``C`` locale to a UTF-8 based locale when it is
run as a standalone command line application.

It further proposes to emit a warning on stderr if the legacy ``C`` locale
is in effect at the point where the language runtime itself is initialized,
in order to warn system and application integrators that they're running
CPython in an unsupported configuration.

Legacy C locale coercion in the standalone Python interpreter binary

When run as a standalone application, CPython has the opportunity to
reconfigure the C locale before any locale dependent operations are executed
in the process.

This means that it can change the locale settings not only for the CPython
runtime, but also for any other C/C++ components running in the current
process (e.g. as part of extension modules), as well as in subprocesses that
inherit their environment from the current process.

After calling ``setlocale(LC_ALL, "")`` to initialize the locale settings in
the current process, the main interpreter binary will be updated to include
the following call::

    const char *ctype_loc = setlocale(LC_CTYPE, NULL);

This cryptic invocation is the API that C provides to query the current locale
setting without changing it. Given that query, it is possible to check for
exactly the ``C`` locale with ``strcmp``::

    ctype_loc != NULL && strcmp(ctype_loc, "C") == 0 # true only in the C locale

Given this information, CPython can then attempt to coerce the locale to one
that uses UTF-8 rather than ASCII as the default encoding.

Three such locales will be tried:

* ``C.UTF-8`` (available at least in Debian, Ubuntu, and Fedora 25+, and
  expected to be available by default in a future version of glibc)
* ``C.utf8`` (available at least in HP-UX)
* ``en_US.UTF-8`` (available at least in RHEL and CentOS)

For ``C.UTF-8`` and ``C.utf8``, the coercion will be implemented by actually
setting the ``LANG`` and ``LC_ALL`` environment variables to the candidate
locale name, such that future calls to ``setlocale()`` will see them, as will
other components looking for those settings (such as GUI development

The last fallback isn't ideal as a coercion target (as it changes more than
just the default text encoding), but has the benefit of currently being more
widely available than the C.UTF-8 locale. To minimize the chance of side
effects, only the ``LC_CTYPE`` environment variable would be set when using
this legacy fallback option, with the other locale categories being left alone.

Given time, more environments are expected to provide a ``C.UTF-8`` locale by
default, so falling all the way back to the ``en_US.UTF-8`` option is expected
to become less common.

When this locale coercion is activated, the following warning will be
printed on stderr, with the warning containing whichever locale was
successfully configured::

    Python detected LC_CTYPE=C, LC_ALL & LANG set to C.UTF-8 (set
    PYTHONCOERCECLOCALE=0 to disable this locale coercion behaviour).

When falling all the way back to the ``en_US.UTF-8`` locale, the message would
be slightly different::

    Python detected LC_CTYPE=C, LC_CTYPE set to en_US.UTF-8 (set
    PYTHONCOERCECLOCALE=0 to disable this locale coercion behaviour).

This locale coercion will mean that the standard Python binary should once
again "just work" in the three main failure cases we're aware of (missing locale
settings, SSH forwarding of unknown locales, and developers explicitly
requesting ``LANG=C``), as long as the target platform provides at least one
of the candidate UTF-8 based environments.

If ``PYTHONCOERCECLOCALE=0`` is set, or none of the candidate locales is
successfully configured, then initialization will continue as usual in the C
locale and the Unicode compatibility warning described in the next section will
be emitted just as it would for any other application.

The interpreter will always check for the ``PYTHONCOERCECLOCALE`` environment
variable (even when running under the ``-E`` or ``-I`` switches), as the locale
coercion check necessarily takes place before any command line argument

Changes to the runtime initialization process

By the time that ``Py_Initialize`` is called, arbitrary locale-dependent
operations may have taken place in the current process. This means that
by the time it is called, it is *too late* to switch to a different locale -
doing so would introduce inconsistencies in decoded text, even in the context
of the standalone Python interpreter binary.

Accordingly, when ``Py_Initialize`` is called and CPython detects that the
configured locale is still the default ``C`` locale, the following warning will
be issued::

   Python runtime initialized with LC_CTYPE=C (a locale with default ASCII
   encoding), which may cause Unicode compatibility problems. Using C.UTF-8
   (if available) as an alternative Unicode-compatible locale is recommended.

In this case, no actual change will be made to the locale settings.

Instead, the warning informs both system and application integrators that
they're running Python 3 in a configuration that we don't expect to work

New build-time configuration options

While both of the above behaviours would be enabled by default, they would
also have new associated configuration options and preprocessor definitions
for the benefit of redistributors that want to override those default settings.

The locale coercion behaviour would be controlled by the flag
``--with[out]-c-locale-coercion``, which would set the ``PY_COERCE_C_LOCALE``
preprocessor definition.

The locale warning behaviour would be controlled by the flag
``--with[out]-c-locale-warning``, which would set the ``PY_WARN_ON_C_LOCALE``
preprocessor definition.

On platforms where they would have no effect (e.g. Mac OS X, iOS, Android,
Windows) these preprocessor variables would always be undefined.

Platform Support Changes

A new "Legacy C Locale" section will be added to PEP 11 that states:

* as of Python 3.7, the legacy C locale is no longer officially supported,
  and any Unicode handling issues that occur only in that locale and cannot be
  reproduced in an appropriately configured non-ASCII locale will be closed as
  "won't fix"
* as of Python 3.7, \*nix platforms are expected to provide at least one of
  ``C.UTF-8``, ``C.utf8`` or ``en_US.UTF-8`` as an alternative to the legacy
  ``C`` locale. On platforms which don't yet provide any of these locales, an
  explicit non-ASCII locale setting will be needed to configure a fully
  supported environment for running Python 3.7+


Improving the handling of the C locale

It has been clear for some time that the C locale's default encoding of
``ASCII`` is entirely the wrong choice for development of modern networked
services. Newer languages like Rust and Go have eschewed that default entirely,
and instead made it a deployment requirement that systems be configured to use
UTF-8 as the text encoding for operating system interfaces. Similarly, Node.js
assumes UTF-8 by default (a behaviour inherited from the V8 JavaScript engine)
and requires custom build settings to indicate it should use the system
locale settings for locale-aware operations. Both the JVM and the .NET CLR
use UTF-16-LE as their primary encoding for passing text between applications
and the underlying platform.

The challenge for CPython has been the fact that in addition to being used for
network service development, it is also extensively used as an embedded
scripting language in larger applications, and as a desktop application
development language, where it is more important to be consistent with other
C/C++ components sharing the same process, as well as with the user's desktop
locale settings, than it is with the emergent conventions of modern network
service development.

The core premise of this PEP is that for *all* of these use cases, the default
"C" locale is the wrong choice, and furthermore that the following assumptions
are valid:

* in desktop application use cases, the process locale will *already* be
  configured appropriately, and if it isn't, then that is an operating system
  level problem that needs to be reported to and resolved by the operating
  system provider
* in network service development use cases (especially those based on Linux
  containers), the process locale may not be configured *at all*, and if it
  isn't, then the expectation is that components will impose their own default
  encoding the way Rust, Go and Node.js do, rather than trusting the legacy C
  default encoding of ASCII the way CPython currently does

Using "strict" error handling by default

By coercing the locale away from the legacy C default and its assumption of
ASCII as the preferred text encoding, this PEP also disables the implicit use
of the "surrogateescape" error handler on the standard IO streams that was
introduced in Python 3.5.

This is deliberate, as while UTF-8 as the preferred text encoding is a good
working assumption for network service development and for more recent releases
of client operating systems, it still isn't a universally valid assumption.

In particular, GB 18030 [12_] is a Chinese national text encoding standard
that handles all Unicode code points, but is incompatible with both ASCII and

Similarly, Shift-JIS [13_] and ISO-2022-JP [14_] remain in widespread use in
Japan, and are incompatible with both ASCII and UTF-8.

Using strict error handling on the standard streams means that attempting to
pass information from a host system using one of these encodings into a
container application that is assuming the use of UTF-8 or vice-versa is likely
to cause an immediate Unicode encoding or decoding error, rather than
potentially causing silent data corruption.

Dropping official support for Unicode handling in the legacy C locale

We've been trying to get strict bytes/text separation to work reliably in the
legacy C locale for over a decade at this point. Not only haven't we been able
to get it to work, neither has anyone else - the only viable alternatives
identified have been to pass the bytes along verbatim without eagerly decoding
them to text (Python 2.x, Ruby, etc), or else to ignore the nominal C/C++ locale
encoding entirely and assume the use of either UTF-8 (PEP 540, Rust, Go,
Node.js, etc) or UTF-16-LE (JVM, .NET CLR).

While this PEP ensures that developers that need to do so can still opt-in to
running their Python code in the legacy C locale, it also makes clear that we
*don't* expect Python 3's Unicode handling to be reliable in that configuration,
and the recommended alternative is to use a more appropriate locale setting.

Providing implicit locale coercion only when running standalone

Over the course of Python 3.x development, multiple attempts have been made
to improve the handling of incorrect locale settings at the point where the
Python interpreter is initialised. The problem that emerged is that this is
ultimately *too late* in the interpreter startup process - data such as command
line arguments and the contents of environment variables may have already been
retrieved from the operating system and processed under the incorrect ASCII
text encoding assumption well before ``Py_Initialize`` is called.

The problems created by those inconsistencies were then even harder to diagnose
and debug than those created by believing the operating system's claim that
ASCII was a suitable encoding to use for operating system interfaces. This was
the case even for the default CPython binary, let alone larger C/C++
applications that embed CPython as a scripting engine.

The approach proposed in this PEP handles that problem by moving the locale
coercion as early as possible in the interpreter startup sequence when running
standalone: it takes place directly in the C-level ``main()`` function, even
before calling in to the `Py_Main()`` library function that implements the
features of the CPython interpreter CLI.

The ``Py_Initialize`` API then only gains an explicit warning (emitted on
``stderr``) when it detects use of the ``C`` locale, and relies on the
embedding application to specify something more reasonable.

Querying LC_CTYPE for C locale detection

``LC_CTYPE`` is the actual locale category that CPython relies on to drive the
implicit decoding of environment variables, command line arguments, and other
text values received from the operating system.

As such, it makes sense to check it specifically when attempting to determine
whether or not the current locale configuration is likely to cause Unicode
handling problems.

Setting both LANG & LC_ALL for C.UTF-8 locale coercion

Python is often used as a glue language, integrating other C/C++ ABI compatible
components in the current process, and components written in arbitrary
languages in subprocesses.

Setting ``LC_ALL`` to ``C.UTF-8`` imposes a locale setting override on all
C/C++ components in the current process and in any subprocesses that inherit
the current environment.

Setting ``LANG`` to ``C.UTF-8`` ensures that even components that only check
the ``LANG`` fallback for their locale settings will still use ``C.UTF-8``.

Together, these should ensure that when the locale coercion is activated, the
switch to the C.UTF-8 locale will be applied consistently across the current
process and any subprocesses that inherit the current environment.

Allowing restoration of the legacy behaviour

The CPython command line interpreter is often used to investigate faults that
occur in other applications that embed CPython, and those applications may still
be using the C locale even after this PEP is implemented.

Providing a simple on/off switch for the locale coercion behaviour makes it
much easier to reproduce the behaviour of such applications for debugging
purposes, as well as making it easier to reproduce the behaviour of older 3.x
runtimes even when running a version with this change applied.


NOTE: The currently posted draft implementation is for a previous iteration
of the PEP prior to the incorporation of the feedback noted in [11_]. It was
broadly the same in concept (i.e. coercing the legacy C locale to one based on
UTF-8), but differs in several details.

A draft implementation of the change (including test cases) has been
posted to issue 28180 [1_], which is an end user request that
``sys.getfilesystemencoding()`` default to ``utf-8`` rather than ``ascii``.

Backporting to earlier Python 3 releases

Backporting to Python 3.6.0

If this PEP is accepted for Python 3.7, redistributors backporting the change
specifically to their initial Python 3.6.0 release will be both allowed and
encouraged. However, such backports should only be undertaken either in
conjunction with the changes needed to also provide the C.UTF-8 locale by
default, or else specifically for platforms where that locale is already
consistently available.

Backporting to other 3.x releases

While the proposed behavioural change is seen primarily as a bug fix addressing
Python 3's current misbehaviour in the default ASCII-based C locale, it still
represents a reasonable significant change in the way CPython interacts with
the C locale system. As such, while some redistributors may still choose to
backport it to even earlier Python 3.x releases based on the needs and
interests of their particular user base, this wouldn't be encouraged as a
general practice.


The locale coercion approach proposed in this PEP is inspired directly by
Armin Ronacher's handling of this problem in the ``click`` command line
utility development framework [2_]::

    $ LANG=C python3 -c 'import click; cli =
click.command()(lambda:None); cli()'
    Traceback (most recent call last):
    RuntimeError: Click will abort further execution because Python 3 was
    configured to use ASCII as encoding for the environment.  Either run this
    under Python 2 or consult http://click.pocoo.org/python3/ for mitigation

    This system supports the C.UTF-8 locale which is recommended.
    You might be able to resolve your issue by exporting the
    following environment variables:

        export LC_ALL=C.UTF-8
        export LANG=C.UTF-8

The change was originally proposed as a downstream patch for Fedora's
system Python 3.6 package [3_], and then reformulated as a PEP for Python 3.7
with a section allowing for backports to earlier versions by redistributors.

The initial draft was posted to the Python Linux SIG for discussion [10_] and
then amended based on both that discussion and Victor Stinner's work in
PEP 540 [11_].

The "ℙƴ☂ℌøἤ" string used in the Unicode handling examples throughout this PEP
is taken from Ned Batchelder's excellent "Pragmatic Unicode" presentation [9_].


.. [1] CPython: sys.getfilesystemencoding() should default to utf-8

.. [2] Locale configuration required for click applications under Python 3

.. [3] Fedora: force C.UTF-8 when Python 3 is run under the C locale

.. [4] GNU C: How Programs Set the Locale
   ( https://www.gnu.org/software/libc/manual/html_node/Setting-the-Locale.html)

.. [5] GNU C: Locale Categories

.. [6] glibc C.UTF-8 locale proposal

.. [7] GNOME Flatpak

.. [8] Ubuntu Snappy

.. [9] Pragmatic Unicode

.. [10] linux-sig discussion of initial PEP draft

.. [11] Feedback notes from linux-sig discussion and PEP 540

.. [12] GB 18030

.. [13] Shift-JIS

.. [14] ISO-2022


This document has been placed in the public domain under the terms of the
CC0 1.0 license: https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

Nick Coghlan   |   ncoghlan at gmail.com   |   Brisbane, Australia

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