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Re: [groff] [patch] modernize -T ascii rendering of opening single quote

From: Jeff Conrad
Subject: Re: [groff] [patch] modernize -T ascii rendering of opening single quote
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2019 02:06:38 +0000

On Sunday, February 17, 2019 3:24 PM, Anthony J. Bentley wrote:

> ` and ' are not directional quotes in ASCII output. They are grave
> accent and straight quote. This was common practice historically
> and is almost universal now. Drawing ` and ' symmetrically as if they
> were directional quotes happened in some places historically but was not
> universal, and is distinctly uncommon today, to the point that most
> groff users are in an environment where it is not the case.

I think this well describes it.  We should bear in mind that when we say
“ASCII” nowadays, we usually mean ISO 646 (which dates from 1983 ...).

> I myself do know the history, I've used many terminal fonts over the
> years, and yet none of them display ` ' as directional quotes, not
> even xterm's "fixed." They all follow the common, documented practice of
> ` being grave accent and ' being a straight quote.

I do seem to recall at least one terminal that displayed opening and
closing quotes (for the life of me, I cannot remember which one; I
honestly had more important things to commit to memory).

> The "true reason" is that I see confusion from users who don't
> understand why their manpages show ` ' which are clearly unbalanced in
> any modern (yes, modern) terminal font.  These people aren't aware
> that their manpage formatter is catering to a particular font style
> that is no longer in common use.  They just see that man(1) outputs
> "weird quotes."

At some time, what had displayed reasonably suddenly looked abominable.
One day, I got mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore, so I
changed the nterm files to have nroff act as the typewriter it truly
was.  We’re talkin’ 30 years ago, so for me, that was the beginning of
the “modern” era.

Jeff Conrad

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