Let's try an experiment, shall we? Find a nice place to type -- the Search box is probably OK, the Chatterbox probably isn't -- and find the key on your keyboard that has the symbols " ~ ^ on it.

Exercise 1a: Press the key and then U. What happens?

Probable answer: You get ü.
Exercise 1b: Press the key and then SHIFT and U together. What happens?
Probable answer: You get Ü.
Exercise 2a: Press the key and then Y. What happens?
Probable answer: You get ÿ.
Exercise 2b: Press the key and then SHIFT and Y together. What happens?
Probable answers:
The first three will almost certainly work, but the results of the fourth are highly dependent on your operating system, browser and font settings. The technical reason is simple: the character U+0178 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER Y WITH DIAERESIS, or Ÿ in HTML, is the only instance of a "basic vowel" (aeiouy) with a diaeresis that is not included in the 8-bit Latin-1 (aka ISO-8859-1) character set found in nearly all modern fonts and computers. Ÿ belongs in Latin Extended-A, which is very poorly supported by all but the newest operating systems and browsers.

This naturally brings us to the next question: why is it not included in Latin-1, when äÄ ëË ïÏ üÜ öÖ ÿ all are? Well, if you take a look at the writeup for ÿ, you will find that there are exactly three possible uses for the lower-case version:

  1. As punctuation in certain obscure proper names in French, such as the surname L'Haÿ. However, according to French rules, accents (including the diaeresis) are dropped when capitalizing words, so the name would be capitalized L'HAY; no need for an upper case version here. (These rules are occasionally ignored though.) There are no digraphs where Y occurs as the first vowel either.
  2. As a surrogate for the Dutch IJ ligature &ijlig (ij). However, while the small ligature looks somewhat like ÿ, the capital version not only looks like but is the two ordinary capital letters "IJ" (IJ)
  3. As a zigamorph (delimiter), since ÿ is hex FF, the highest 8-bit value. However, Ÿ is hex 178, which has no special properties.
In other words, there are no uses for Ÿ. None, zippo, nada. This has been the subject of more than a little debate on www-international@w3.org, and the consensus seems to be that letter ended up in both Unicode and HTML through bureaucratic incompetence -- somebody stuck it in for reasons of symmetry and afterward nobody dared to try to prove a negative and lose face.


The E2 search engine treats "&yuml;" and "&Yuml;" as identical, so I had to file this writeup under "&#376;" to make this distinct. <sigh>



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