They could be a little shorter

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/07/08 04:01 -04:00, original URI:

I talked about them a bit in the post Size matters (when it comes to day names, at least). They are known as the 'shortest day names' and are retreived by calling GetLocaleInfo with one of the LOCALE_SHORTESTDAYNAME# LCTYPE constants.

Now if you look at them for a few locales, say like en-US:


or for fr-FR:


or for hu-HU:


you will see a pattern emerging.

Basically, folks decided that each day's shortest name should be unambiguous.

This weekend I am back in Cleveland for my grandmother's 90th birthday. And I was sitting at the kitchen table looking at somebody's pill case, and noticed that the letters on the "doors" for each of the seven days were:

S   M   T   W   T   F   S

and suddenly I realized something.

The purpose of the shortest day names was to support the creation of CALENDAR displays, like in Outlook and the updated Vista MonthCal/DateTimePicker.

In the context of those types of calendars (or similar UI like those pill cases), is anyone ever going to mistake Tuesday for Thursday? Or Saturday for Sunday? Or mardi for mercredi? Or szerda for szombat?

Obviously not!

Now clearly for languages like Welsh, where the day names are:

Dydd Llun;Dydd Mawrth;Dydd Mercher;Dydd Iau;Dydd Gwener;Dydd Sadwrn;Dydd Sul;

and Hebrew, where six of the day names start with יום, it makes sense to use a different one letter than the first letter of the full day name. But that does not invalidate the idea under which this NLS data field was originally born -- the ONE LETTER DAY NAME, now does it?

(by the way, the Hebrew shortest day names are one letter each!)

I'm just saying.... :-)


This post brought to you by י (U+05d9, a.k.a. HEBREW LETTER YOD)

# Ruben on 8 Jul 2006 5:17 PM:

I think that the original idea somehow got lost in the translation...

# Michael S. Kaplan on 8 Jul 2006 6:18 PM:

The translation from English to English? :-)

# Ruben on 8 Jul 2006 6:30 PM:

Hey, no-one said English was an easy language! All sorts of things go wrong when you're not careful translating something from one language to another. As in Specification English to Implementation English. :-P

# Dean Harding on 9 Jul 2006 2:13 AM:

Actually, I like the "Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa" better because even when written in a line like that, it's slightly easier for me to parse than just "S M T W T F S".

But that's just me.

# Michael Dunn_ on 12 Jul 2006 4:34 PM:

In my college class listings, they used the one-letter abbreviations M T W R F S Z
That was a case where space was at a premium, and you couldn't tell whether "T" meant Tuesday or Thursday from the context.

# André Szabolcs Szelp on 14 Jul 2006 7:06 AM:

Well, you did not get it quite right with Hungarian.

The "shortest" abbreviations
H K Sze Cs P Szo V (for hétfő, kedd szerda, csütörtök, péntek, szombat, vasárnap)
are not only customary and have not only been used in calendar views in print (!) for decades, but there comes in an additional factor:

In Hungarian there are several multi-character graphemes (using Unicode terminology) (a lot of digraphs and one trigraph), such is the CS in csütörtök and SZ in szerda and szombat respectively. Those, which are called graphemes in Unicode (they have stopped using "letter" for the ambiguity of grapheme--character notion) are considered letters in hungarian: the atomic parts of the script; such, S is a letter and SZ is a separate letter.

Therefore, even if you'd abbreviate the weekdays one letter only,
it would still be H K Sz Cs P Sz V. Abbreviating of /sz.*/ as /s/ (as well as /cs.*/ as /c/ or /dzs.*/ as /d/, /ty.*/ as /t/) is forbidden by hungarian orthography, writing traditon _and_ customary use (I'm stressing this, because there occure situations, when writing "rules" [orthography] is out of sync the needs of the writer community. But here, that's definitely not the case). And if you have -- in terms of characters -- more than one occasionally, _and_ a tradition even in print, why not stick with it? H K Sze Cs P Szo V is used by everyone, and no-one (who actually uses it) has ever complained about that.

Yeah, things become interesting, when people start ruling and judging about matter they are not _actually_ involved with.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 14 Jul 2006 11:13 AM:

Hi André,

Yes, I understand wanting to keep the user opinion about a character intact -- but if the name gets too long then it will end up being truncated by the UI, which is arguably a worse situation than if the truncation is intentionally planned, after careful consideration. :-)

But I think of the situation with Hungarian as similar to the English one - and the duplication of Sz is really not as bad as it may seem (though perhaps it is okay since when it truncates it will look like Sz anyway?).

Out of curiousity, what does Outlook do in its tiny calendar view?

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