RDA-L On the use of the word approximately, etc.

Posting to RDA-L

On 9/24/2014 6:31 PM, J. McRee Elrod wrote:

Richard Moore said:
“1900?-” does not signify that the birth year is approximate. It signifies that it is probable.

I doubt most patrons would see much difference between the two  concepts. Now I suspect “approximately” (earlier “ca.”) is used for both. I also like “?” in 264 1 $c, as opposed to phrases such as “between …” or “before …”.

These sorts of tiny differences that are difficult even for catalogers to understand (an approximate birth year is not the same as a probable birth year?) needs to be weighed based on user impact. It seems to me that if understanding the difference between 490 1/830 and 440 was so difficult for catalogers that it had to be changed, this is a lot harder. The natural question is: How would users interpret it?

I think that perhaps a tilde might be more widely understood among the people (as was mentioned) but unfortunately the tilde “~” is also widely used among programmers. It is important in URLs and in all kinds of programming languages, running the gauntlet almost from the meaning of “everything” to the NOT operator. Programmers would not like us for adding tildes.

In a similar case from my own experience, I have spent hours dealing with the ampersand (&) which is also used extensively in programming and even html. Even though I find the ampersand to be an aesthetically pleasing symbol, I learned to absolutely HATE it because it causes so many problems!

Nevertheless, when the public has problems understanding concepts of searching by “titles” or by “subjects” these tiny differences–that are unclear anyway–are completely irrelevant.

Why not get our authority files to function in a 21st-century world? Now that might make a big enough difference to be noticed!