Saturday, 24 May 2014

Greetings for St. Cyril and Methodius Day

It's celebration time - various places are having a long weekend for various reasons. In the US they have Memorial day on Monday and in the UK it's the uncreatively named Spring Bank Holiday. In Eastern Orthodox countries however, and especially in the ones using the Cyrillic alphabet, it's an even more special holiday - the St. Cyril and Methodius Day, which is also celebrated as the culture and education day as these guys invented the Cyrillic script. It should, therefore, be a also a major holiday for us, lexicophiles.

Even though in the west the Cyrillic is mostly known as a scene setter for cold war era films it's actually used in dozens of languages, it's an official script in 12 countries as diverse as Mongolia and Tajikistan and is used in many others, like China - the Dungan language is the only tonal language that uses Cyrillic.

Despite its cultural significance, the Cyrillic alphabet has been a royal pain for some of us in Lexicum who started our careers as developers in Bulgaria before Unicode became established. The windows code tables saw great contortions in this period in order to accommodate use of Cyrillic, resulting in countless lost files and conversations. We want to take this occasion to sincerely apologize to the holy brothers for whatever unpleasantries we might have said about them at the height of frustration. We didn't mean it! Our curses should have actually been targeted at the guys who invented the buggy encodings used at the time.

Few techies from the next generation will ever know the pains we've been through in order to make multilingual applications in the 90s and early 2000s - nowadays we can just print text in Unicode without spending a thought about the underlying complexities. Thus, we should use this date to also celebrate the effort of the Unicode Consortium who made it possible. You guys deserve a big thank you not just from developers of Cyrillic apps but from anyone writing in a non-Latin script.

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