[erlang-questions] A proposal for Unicode variable and atom names in Erlang.

Rustom Mody <>
Mon Oct 22 08:44:45 CEST 2012

On Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 11:36 AM, Richard O'Keefe <> wrote:

> If it were still possible to submit EEPs in plain text,
> this would be an EEP.  If someone else would like to
> package this up as an EEP and submit it (under their
> name, mine, or both), feel free.
> Forces:
>  (1) Support for Unicode continues to increase, with
>      minimal source code support about to arrive.
>  (2) Unicode variable names and unquoted atoms are not
>      here yet, so now is the time to settle on a design.

On Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 10:38 AM, Yurii Rashkovskii <>wrote:

> Richard,
> Please excuse my ignorance, but can you name a single good reason for
> non-latin atoms and variable names? From my personal point of view, this is
> a sure road to hell.

As an Erlang noob maybe I should wait a bit before I open my mouth.
Please forgive the impertinence!

Python made a choice to embrace unicode more thoroughly in going from
python 2 to python 3.  This seems to have caused some grief in that 'ASCII'
code that used to work in python 2 now often does not in python 3. Maybe
this has nothing to do with Richard's EEP because that is about the string
data structure this is about variable names. Still just mentioning.

I know at least one person who is working on a programming language for
Indian languages.  The idea is to go beyond mere use of Indic scripts to
using keywords and language constructs that respect typical forms of
conjugation used in Indian languages.

There is one small subset of unicode that is more universal than the
languages/scripts part, viz the math symbols.
Think of replacing
fun with *λ*
=:= with *≑*
<- with ←
-> with →
<0.51.0> with ⟦0.51.0⟧

and much else

Am I being serious about all this?

Not quite :-)

All I am saying is that we have got so used to the imprisonment of Ascii
that we find it hard to imagine a little more freedom.
[Just a historical note: When Unix first came out, some of the
old-schoolers turned up their noses: WHO NEEDS LOWER CASE? ]

In all fairness (for Yurii's points) I should mention:
1. I was typing this on a windows box and could not see the characters
until I switched to linux
2. Our computers may become completely, effortlessly unicode-capable
someday, our keyboards will never. So to the extent that code is meant to
be written, ASCII will always trump.  To the extent that it is to be read,
a richer (within limits) character set has its attractions.
3. I learnt Apl in my youth.  That may explain some prejudices/tendencies


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