15.577 what cannot (at the moment) be said

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Wed Apr 10 2002 - 03:06:45 EDT

  • Next message: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty : "15.579 what computing has to do with life"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 577.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 10 Apr 2002 07:39:03 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <w.mccarty@btinternet.com>
             Subject: accented characters

    Members of this group should know that the problem kindly pointed out by
    Wilhelm Ott and Stefan Sinclair (whose name this problem now prevents me
    from transmitting in its true form) is now, once again, under
    investigation. From what I have been able to determine none of the
    email-processing software (at Princeton, Virginia and King's College
    London, including my own client) is responsible and neither is Listserv (at
    Princeton). Apparently the fault is in the revised version of the digesting
    scripts, written a couple of years ago for us by a kind programmer who
    happened to be passing through London and whom I persuaded to spend a day
    or so devising her ingenious scheme and implementing it. I say "apparently"
    because the fault has not yet been found in these scripts, only nowhere else.

    I should also explain that the problem has been with us for a long time. If
    memory serves (which it often doesn't) previous attempts to fix the problem
    were met with a kind but firm "go away" from various people on various
    systems now no longer involved. Meanwhile, it seems, communications
    software has improved in ways I only observe but do not understand, so that
    more generous encodings of a wider range of characters pass through
    unharmed. No doubt if I understood these better and had more time or an
    actual budget with which to improve Humanist the problem now vexing us
    would have been taken care of silently, long ago. But, yes, it is easier
    just to use English (or Latin, as Wilhelm Ott noted) for those of us to
    whom it comes naturally, and yes linguistic laziness is a problem for those
    of us afflicted by severe monolingualism -- which perhaps can be cured, but
    (as David Reed noted) the treatment is long and doesn't always work for
    people of an advanced age (i.e. past puberty).

    This has, please note, always been a seat-of-the-pants operation. All the
    effort put into it (by the folks at Princeton, Virginia, King's College
    London and elsewhere) has been and continues to be volunteered. The rewards
    have been (at least for me) beyond the imagination of any Midas, but we're
    still broke and still have to put our hand out every time something goes
    wrong. This is not at all to say or suggest that the problem of vanishing
    characters should not have been diligently pursued long before this, just
    that among life's clamourings the multilingual voices have not been loud
    enough. Now, it seems, they are, and that's a good thing. Humanist is all
    about speaking up.

    Many thanks for your patience while very kind people I have never met toil
    away at IATH in Virginia.


    Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer,
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London,
    Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.,
    +44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/,
    willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk, w.mccarty@btinternet.com

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