[Users] Hello

Abhay S. Kushwaha kushwaha at netsolutionsindia.com
Thu Aug 9 08:38:19 CEST 2012

On Wed, 8 Aug 2012 22:57:05 +0200, Holger wrote:

> >> MAY (note the capitals) is defined in RFC 2119. It doesn't
> >> support Michael's claim either.
> >
> >My reading of the RFC is like Michael's, I say it again without the
> >typo this time:
> >
> >In my understanding of this 'MAY' it means may use "Re: or may not
> >use Re:". It does not mean "may use Re: or may use any other
> >abbreviation".
> Again: The subject header is FREE TEXT, for HUMANS.
> RFC 2822 defines an OPTIONAL (->MAY) feature on this otherwise
> non-machine-interpreted free text header, which introduces "Re: "
> syntax.
> >And to quote the RFC '"Re: " (from the Latin "res", in the matter
> >of)', so Aw:, for example, (in my limited understanding of German),
> >being short for Antwort, a translation of 'reply', is wrong
> >anyway.>
> No, it's not wrong. It's just not the optional feature described.
> "Antwort: " qualifies as human-readable free text all right.

Holger, please allow me to break it down in a more structured manner.

1. Is "Antwort: " allowed to be the "Subject:" field?
2. Should a response to an email be identified by modifying the
   "Subject:" field?
3. If the answer to #2 allows modification of "Subject:" field, is
   there a prescribed way to do it?
4. If there is a prescription in #3, are "Antwort: " or "Aw: " (its
   abbreviation) part of that prescription?

Now the answers.

1. Yes, of course. Any text is allowed to be in "Subject:" field. In
   that, the used text is the subject of the email itself.

   Ref: 3.6.5, first paragraph.

   > The "Subject:" and "Comments:" fields are unstructured fields
   > as defined in section 2.2.1, and therefore may contain text
   > or folding white space.

2. It is allowed that a reply to an email message be indicated by
   modification of the "Subject:" field. It is not compulsory to do
   so, but it is allowed to be done.

   Ref: 3.6.5, second paragraph.

   > The "Subject:" field is the most common and contains a short
   > string identifying the topic of the message.  When used in a
   > reply, the field body MAY start with the string "Re: " (from the
   > Latin "res", in the matter of) followed by the contents of the
   > "Subject:" field body of the original message.

3. Yes. If it is choosen that the reply be identified through the
   modification of the "Subject:" field, then it must and only must
   use the string "Re: " and no other, and that too, only once and
   not more than once.

   Ref: 3.6.5

   > If this is done, only one instance of the literal string "Re: "
   > ought to be used since use of other strings or more than one
   > instance can lead to undesirable consequences.

4. No. The prescribed format of identifying a response through
   modification of "Subject:" field should use only use "Re: ", and
   only once, and no other string or multiple uses of "Re: " are

   Ref: 3.6.5

   > If this is done, only one instance of the literal string "Re: "
   > ought to be used since use of other strings or more than one
   > instance can lead to undesirable consequences.

   Ref: A.2

   > When sending replies, the Subject field is often retained, though
   > prepended with "Re: " as described in section 3.6.5.

So Holger, when you say "Aw: " or "Antwort: " is allowed to be used
in "Subject:" field, you are absolutely right. In that use, these
words are valid content for "Subject:" field. But they are not to be
confused with the RFC-prescribed indicator of a response.

So when you use "Aw: " you are modifying the "Subject:" itself. It is
no different than receiving an email with "Subject:" as "Hi Holger"
and you replying with "Subject:" of "Your email called 'Hi Holger'".
So when you use any other string than "Re: " in an attempt to
identify a response, you should not expect that a software or human
who correctly understands and implements the RFC will understand.

In other words, if I receive an email with:
  Subject: Aw: Hi Holger
the RFC compliant responses to that email would only be two
  Subject: Aw: Hi Holger
  Subject: Re: Aw: Hi Holger
where, in the first instance I chose not to identify a reply by
modifying the "Subject:" field and in the second instance I chose to
identify a reply by modifying the "Subject:" field.

That is, "Aw: " is not an alternative to "Re: " far as RFC is
concerned. The RFC specifically talks of "use of other strings" other
than "Re: " as potential agents of "undesirable consequences".

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