Re: Spelling of cm. in RDA records

Posting to Autocat

On 23/08/2011 22:17, Mike Tribby wrote:


“Also, it should be pointed out that the JSC was not just making an arbitrary and unilateral decision to treat the metric symbols as symbols. The U.S. Metric Association has something to say about the matter:
“Or, if that appears to be too U.S.-centric, how about a higher authority?
“Excerpt: “Unit symbols are mathematical entities and not abbreviations. Therefore, they are not followed by a period except at the end of a sentence, and one must “neither use the plural nor mix unit symbols and unit names within one expression, since names are not mathematical entities.””

 My, such a lot of hand-wringing! Thanks for the nice links, but the point Jim was making (at least the point of his I apprehended) and the point I was making, was that to declare that metric<>word shortenings<> (since they’re obviously _so_ not abbreviations)(even thought they look like, act like, and for all I know walk like abbreviations) are *symbols* and not abbreviations is an arbitrary choice. Therefore the suggestion that some other eminent body conveniently declare that other<>word shortenings<> are also symbols seems no more arbitrary and not a lot more contrived.

To say that something is a rule because it is a rule is a commonplace in cataloging, but not so much in the rest of the world– assuming the rest of the world survives today’s earthquake activity, the news of which is flooding the ether even as we discuss this deep and rewarding subject.

Gotcha! See how it works? There are no reasons given for such a “rule,” it makes no inherent sense and makes no difference in comprehension or in searching. It only makes a difference to “those in the know”. That’s why I would laugh evilly to myself: this showed I was a member of a unique and special group. And a cataloger can really get into these Gotchas! which, once again, makes absolutely no difference to anyone using the catalog and can take up a lot of time, but more crucially: they make catalogers focus their attention away from critical matters to those of extremely marginal importance–if of any importance at all.

I always wonder how those august bodies go about determining matters of such great impact. How and who determined that these are not abbreviations? What were the arguments pro and con? Why did anybody care? (Probably the most interesting of these questions) Remember how Pluto was downgraded from a planet? Nothing happened to Pluto–it is still where it ever was–the definition itself was changed. And how? A vote among the illuminati. What difference did it make to anyone? Well, textbooks had to be rewritten, so there was a lot of money to be made, and articles had to discuss matters, so there were careers that could be helped along. (Another confession: in my heart of hearts, Pluto is still a planet to me! I never understood why it couldn’t have been grandfathered in.)

Having an historical point of view is handy in these cases. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if a new generation in 30 or so years reconsiders matters again and promotes Pluto back to a planet once again, maybe adding a couple of the larger asteroids into the mix. Why? Well, people will have to write and sell new textbooks and careers can be helped along….

RDA mandates precision in some very strange areas, and there has been a certain amount of discussion on these matters as we have seen. At the same time, we are supposed to become extremely lax in matters of more import to the catalog: access points (rule of three changed to rule of one, and more based on “cataloger’s judgement”, oh wait! Except for illustrators of children’s books and translators, again for some unknown, incomprehensible reasons that I prefer not to know about); not having to add 245$b, and so on, but at the same time they mandate meaningless punctuation rules!

I was really hoping that RDA would help catalogers to focus on what was really important for managing the collection and helping our patrons find materials, but I fear there will be as many Gotchas! as ever.