On 10/04/2013 11:18, Moore, Richard wrote:
“Calling them symbols also does not make them so.” I suppose not. By the same token a centimetre might be seven fifteenths of a metre, or half a pint, or a unit of resistance. Alternatively, you could accept the definitions in the system of units to which it belongs, in which “cm” is its symbol. Cataloguers could be allowed the judgement to insert random punctuation in other places where it does not belong, but what would be the point? As you say, there are more important things on which to exercise judgement.
Why do you call that random? This is not questioning whether there are 12 inches in a foot or that 1+1=2. This is saying that since in. and lb. and Prof. etc. are abbreviations, then cm. etc. are too. That is anything but random. The randomness is proclaiming that metric abbreviations are not abbreviations.
It would be a judgment on the part of the cataloger whether cm. is an abbreviation (that is, “It is a duck”) or a symbol (“No, it is not a duck, even though it paddles in water, waddles and quacks. It is a wildebeest and why? Because some organization proclaimed it so”). If someone wants to accept the holy pronouncements of the Synod of Metrical Measurements, that is fine. If RDA wants to proclaim that this thing that the Synod has deemed to be a symbol, but to the rest of the world looks, smells and acts like an abbreviation and says that it will not have a period after it, that’s fine.
That results in a Gotcha! because it makes no difference to anyone and is one of those superfluous rules that gives cataloging a bad name. But it can be done.
But to proclaim that it absolutely is a symbol and not an abbreviation, and provide no justification for it other than some holy pronouncement that no one is supposed to question takes it to a completely different level. That is when we begin to get dogma.
This is why cataloger’s judgment is best in these kinds of cases. Especially when the only difference is a period!
What a ridiculous discussion!