Ownership of Names (was Re: Public identifiers and topic maps)

John Cowan cowan at locke.ccil.org
Mon Sep 28 21:19:38 BST 1998

Blunderingly I wrote:

> > [...] registered land units larger than a county. [...]

For "larger" read "smaller".

Eliot wrote:

> This is no different from any other name resolution we do today. There are
> no unique problems here.  There are no unique solutions.

The problem is not resolving such names, but fitting them into our
existing URN/FPI name architecture.

How should I refer to Spencertown via an FPI?  The standard solution
is "-//John Cowan//TOPIC Spencertown, N.Y.", but that suggests
that *my* Spencertown is meant, and I do not mean *my* Spencertown,
but *the* Spencertown, the one that appears on the maps.
Note that the maps are not *defining* here: they merely report common

The current usage of the ISO 13wawa draft is something like
"-//US::New York//NONSGML TOPIC Spencertown", but most XML-DEViants
( :-) ) have complained that that FPI steps on New York State's
proprietary name space.

Both these solutions being unsatisfactory, what should we do instead?
Again, it is simply not the case that someone executed an act,
written or oral, whose illocutionary force was "I name this place
'Spencertown'".  The name simply evolved among a community of users,
and was eventually recorded in various maps and gazeteers.

Similar arguments apply to things like words of languages (there is
a registrar for the *names* of languages, but not for the words in them),
persons (how would you refer to Simon de Montfort, or Henry VIII,
with an FPI?), and many other important matters.

Even if we confine ourselves to documents as topics (which 13wawa
by no means insists on, on my reading of it), we have problems.
Consider John 3:14 (in the KJV version, to be concrete). 
What is an FPI I can use for it?  I have the same unpalatable
alternatives: "-//John Cowan//NONSGML KJV John 3:14//EN", which
is a name I own but which is embarrassingly non-public, or
"-//King James I of England//NONSGML John 3:14", which belongs
to a man who is unlikely to register any names.

John Cowan	http://www.ccil.org/~cowan		cowan at ccil.org
	You tollerday donsk?  N.  You tolkatiff scowegian?  Nn.
	You spigotty anglease?  Nnn.  You phonio saxo?  Nnnn.
		Clear all so!  'Tis a Jute.... (Finnegans Wake 16.5)

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