[Ads-l] Garbling (Re: on national grammar day)

David Champion dgc.ads at BIKESHED.US
Thu Mar 24 20:06:01 UTC 2016

I'll de-lurk for this - finally a topic I'm not an abject amateur in!

This isn't a problem with e-mail apps, it's a problem with LISTSERV,
which is frankly a rather antiquated piece of list management software
that frequently does not follow e-mail norms or standards.

Most of the garbling I see here is an equal symbol followed by two
(hexademical) digits, which is a form of encoding called "quoted
printable" or QP. It protects non-ASCII content such as accented
characters, smart quotes, and emoji during ASCII transport.  It's great,
and almost all e-mail software supports it.

However, there's a rule for indicating that a message is QP-encoded.  If
the message has a header:

	Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

then it will be properly decoded.  If it doesn't, then it _shouldn't_ be
decoded.  If you see these "garbled" messages, it's because your client
is aggressive in assuming QP encoding even when it's not explicit.

LISTSERV is either QP-encoding e-mail and not inserting that header, or
it's removing that header from QP-encoded mail.  (Sometimes this happens
under the moniker of "de-MIMEing" or "MIME defanging".  It's a primitive
yet effective way of blocking e-mail-based malware.)  Anyway, that's why
we see the garbling on the list.  It's something that UGA's LISTSERV
admins need to resolve.


* On 24 Mar 2016, Joel Berson wrote: 
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Joel Berson <berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Garbling (Re: on national grammar day)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> It's not everyone who sees such messages garbled.=C2=A0 I, for example, hav=
> e received them all (except for a few a while back), from both Ben and Denn=
> is, in readable form.
> However, to be kind to those whose email apps are not smart enough to handl=
> e "smart quotes", accented letters, etc., perhaps Ben and Dennis can try se=
> nding a test message in "plain text", and ask those who have seen garbled m=
> essages whether that loses the troublesome characters without also losing o=
> ther information.
> Joel
>       From: Benjamin Barrett <mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM>
>  Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 1:43 AM
>  Subject: [ADS-L] Garbling (Re: on national grammar day)
>   =20
> There have always been problems on the ADS list with garbled characters. I =
> looked on the Linguist List but didn=E2=80=99t see this issue addressed. It=
>  seems that some people don=E2=80=99t have this problem, but it=E2=80=99s r=
> eally frustrating for me to try to figure out which garblings are quotation=
>  marks, which are accented Latin letters and which are from other languages=
> . Even equal signs come to me as garbled characters. I generally just muddl=
> e through, though I can always go to the website to find posts without the =
> garbling.
> Dennis Baron=E2=80=99s posts are even more problematic as they are 100 perc=
> ent garbled for at least those of us who receive the other sorts of garblin=
> gs. Again, you can get his postings without the garbling on the website.
> Is there a way to fix this problem?
> Benjamin Barrett
> Formerly of Seattle, WA
> > On 22 Mar 2016, at 22:22, Mark Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> >=20
> > Eh?
> >=20
> > On Mar 6, 2016 1:00 PM, "Baron, Dennis E" <debaron at illinois.edu> wrote:
> >>=20
> >>=20
> > TGFycnksDQoNClJlOiBCcCBMb3d0aDogWW91ciBjb21tZW50IHByb21wdGVkIG1lIHRvIGxvb=
> 2sg
> >>=20
> > bW9yZSBjbG9zZWx5IGF0IHRoZSB3b3JrSS4gTG93dGggZG9lcyB1c2UgdGhhdCBkb3VibGUgb=
> mVn
> >>=20
> > YXRpdmUgY29tbWVudCBpbiB0aGUgMTc2MyBlZGl0aW9uLCBwLiAxMzkuIEl0IGRvZXMgbm90I=
> GFw
> >>=20
> > cGVhciBpbiB0aGUgZmlyc3QgZWQuLCAxNzYyLiBJIHRvbyBoYXZlIHNlZW4gdGhvc2UgbWFue=
> SBx
> >>=20
> > ...
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

David Champion • dgc at bikeshed.us

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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