[whatwg] sic element

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Fri Jul 29 13:56:55 PDT 2011

On Fri, 29 Jul 2011, Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
> 29.07.2011 20:05, Ian Hickson wrote:
> >
> > The point is just that <u> is used to explicitly annotate some text 
> > without saying why in a textual manner. This makes it quite distinct 
> > from [sic], which is an explicitly articulated annotation.
> I fail to see how [sic] would be more explicit than underlining.

[sic] has an explicitly articulated meaning. Underlining, on the other 
hand, does not; it is an annotation but the reader cannot know, without 
context, what its meaning is.

> Anyway, aren't you saying that <u> says "this text is annotated but no 
> annotation is given"? In that case, saying that <u> draws attention to 
> its content might be more appropriate.

The physical line is an annotation. It's just not articulated.

> But the whole idea of transmogrifying the old <u> element, one of the 
> simplest elements of traditional HTML, to some purportedly semantic 
> element without saying what it _really_ means, is just doomed.

Doomed in what sense? If you are concerned that people are going to use it 
for a different meaning that it has, then the whole language suffers from 
this problem and so calling this one out specifically as "doomed" seems to 
be a case of missing the wood for the trees.

> I wonder what speech-based user agents are supposed to make out of <u>. 
> The good old <u> is simple: you can either ignore it (saying that 
> underlining has no recognizable meaning that could be conveyed in 
> speech), or you can interpret it as some kind of emphasis, expressed by 
> a change of voice somehow. But if the new <u> is supposed to be 
> semantic, can it be ignored in speech? How do you express an explicit 
> but completely unspecified "annotation"?

If it's ok if it's entirely ignored, then it's presentational, and not 
conveying any useful information.

If it isn't ignored, then clearly it doesn't mean "underline". Indeed, it 
means pretty much what HTML now says it does, and always has. A different 
voice, inflexion, auditory icons -- there are lots of ways of conveying 
this kind of thing in speech, just like there is in the visual medium.

> This really sounds like an odd game where HTML specs are meant to say to 
> authors and to vendors of authoring software that they can keep using 
> <u> as before (and pass validation), but when interrogated, they are 
> supposed to tell that it does not mean underlining but... eh... explicit 
> annotation without explicitly articulated annotation.

If you interpret the spec as saying that <u> is underline and it's fine to 
use it as before then you are misreading the spec.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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