[OSM-talk] Use of official names Re: shortened names

Colin Smale colin.smale at xs4all.nl
Thu Jul 28 15:30:34 BST 2011

On 28/07/2011 15:32, Pieren wrote:
> 1. It was decided a long time ago that abbreviations are not used in 
> tag "name"
To quote the wiki:
...except if the signs have abbreviated words and you don't know what 
the full word is. There is currently no table of standard abbreviations 
(St. could be Street or it could be Saint) and it has been decided that 
this is a rendering issue. i.e. the underlying data should have the full 
street name. This will allow a renderer to introduce abbreviations as 

Without licensing the telepathy library (which doesn't exist yet so I 
can't use it to tell you when it will be ready), no renderer will be 
able to reliably reproduce the abbreviated form present on street name 
signs etc. which is most useful for navigation and orientation. We can 
help the non-telepathic renderer by providing both the full form and the 
"as signed" form. If "name" is to contain the non-abbreviated form, 
which may well only exist in the OSM data, then let's nominate a tag to 
contain the "as signed" form, so everybody knows where they're at. Then 
the renderers only have two places to look to find the "most useful form".

> 2. the US contributors can decide to do it differently than the rest 
> of the world for their country but they will have to explain why 
> software developers should develop special code for them
Let's have common semantics at least. If we agree on "name=<as written 
on a sign>" then everybody can get back to mapping. We can also go for 
"name=<as decided by a government agency>" then we put the name from the 
sign somewhere else such as alt_name. If you seriously want to reduce 
work for software developers, you must reduce (or preferably eliminate) 
the semantic differences between countries. Simply mandating not using 
abbreviations is not going to help a lot. On the talk page there is a 
reference to an essay (see [2]) about why it is a Good Idea to maintain 
the use of abbreviations in US addresses.

> 3. the tag official_name has been created for official country names, 
> not for streets or locations with alternative names (for that, we have 
> alt_name)
There may be multiple alt_names; a street will only have one 
official_name (possibly per language for multilingual territories). Why 
should official_name only apply to countries? Many things have differing 
official and colloquial names. Even you were suggesting its use for 
schools (see [1]) and asking for the same semantic clarifications as I 
am now.

> 4. although the tag name is used by Mapnik and others, please don't 
> fulfill the tag "name" for the renderers
Sure, don't deliberately put incorrect information into "name" because 
it looks pretty... How would you describe what *should* go in "name" 
then? If there is no way of determining whether the value is "correct" 
or "appropriate" then it is simply subjective which means no-one can 
dispute another mapper's conclusion. These nit-picking debates about 
whether "Bury St Edmunds" should be spelt "Bury Saint Edmunds" or 
whether "Pkwy" should be tagged as "Parkway" are a drain on everyone's 
time as it always comes down to a subjective discussion without feedback 
into the "accepted standards" documented in the wiki to help prevent the 
same discussion erupting again next week when somebody takes exception 
to "Ottery Saint Mary". What's the definition of the "name" tag as 
applied to roads? According to the wiki it's "The common default name".


[1] http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Talk:Key:name#official_name
[2] http://vidthekid.info/misc/osm-abbr.html

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