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Re: [Groff] ASCII Minus Sign in man Pages

From: Mike Bianchi
Subject: Re: [Groff] ASCII Minus Sign in man Pages
Date: Wed, 3 May 2017 13:42:55 -0400
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.23 (2014-03-12)

On Wed, May 03, 2017 at 03:51:24PM +0100, Ralph Corderoy wrote:
>       : 
>       : 
>     -       A hyphen for text, e.g. beer-flavoured ice-cream.
>       : 
> > To my mind  -  in groff should always default to the ASCII, 7-bit,
> > undistinguished character.
> But it's always meant hyphen in pre-groff troff because it's a lot more
> common to want a hyphen in writing than a minus sign.

_I_ would claim this interpretation was a mistake.  ((My opinion only here.))
The  -  character exists on all keyboards.  It is not labeled minus or hyphen
or endash.  It generates the decimal 45 (hex 0x2D, octal 055) character.
That any *roff processor would give it a different meaning is most unfortunate.
Especially because hyphenation is a built in feature of *roff and once there
was the concept of  \(hy , hyphenated words should have used it.
Note please that I am not saying that  -  should be interpreted as  \(mi

>       : 
>     \-      A minus sign in the current font.
>     \(mi    A minus sign in the special font.

I would claim that  \-  makes sense, but  \(mi  coming from the special font
is a hold-over from the _first_ troff at Bell Labs that was tailored to the
first support photo typesetter that supported 4 102-character fonts.  They
were Roman, Bold, Italic, and Special (R B I S).  Special was the Greek
alphabet and other needed characters.
Us old-timers fondly remember the Bell System bell.
See     "CAT phototypesetter"

((And interestingly, the current S (Symbol) font also contains the numbers,
presumably so the they and the arithmetic and logic operators could all look
alike in mathematical writing.
I'm guessing that *roff does not take the digits from the Symbol font by
default.  I think that as an effective argument for not making \(mi draw from
the S font by default.))

>     \-      A minus sign in the current font.
>     \(mi    A minus sign in the special font.
>     \(hy    Another name for plain `-', so a hyphen for text.
>     \N'45'  Glyph 45 in the current font.

Once fonts distinguished between minus and hyphen with distinctive glyphs
then  \(mi  and  \(hy  have should come from the current font, especially if
neither is  \N'45' .

BUT that is MY opinion.  What I am pushing for is that all the groff
documentation speak truth on this matter.

> ... paste from a man page, viewed as UTF-8
> TTY, PostScript, PDF, browser, ..., it needs to be character 45.
> Writing «wc \N'45'l» isn't going to gain support.  :-)
> How to produce it is the issue.

Absolutely.  I propose
        wc -l

if  -  was  \N'45'  It would make sense for future generations.  As a first
generation UNIX citizen it is interesting to contemplate how much longer the
man pages groff documents will be relevant.

 Mike Bianchi
 Foveal Systems

 973 822-2085


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