Generally Swift is really smart about counting grapheme clusters as a single character. If I want to make a Lebanese flag, for example, I can combine the two Unicode characters

  • U+1F1F1 REGIONAL INDICATOR SYMBOL LETTER L
  • U+1F1E7 REGIONAL INDICATOR SYMBOL LETTER B

and as expected this is one character in Swift:

let s = "\u{1f1f1}\u{1f1e7}"
assert(s.characters.count == 1)
assert(s.utf16.count == 4)
assert(s.utf8.count == 8)

However, let's say I want to make a Bicyclist emoji of Fitzpatrick Type-5. If I combine

  • U+1F6B4 BICYCLIST
  • U+1F3FE EMOJI MODIFIER FITZPATRICK TYPE-5

Swift counts this combination as two characters!

let s = "\u{1f6b4}\u{1f3fe}"
assert(s.characters.count == 2)   // <----- WHY?
assert(s.utf16.count == 4)
assert(s.utf8.count == 8)

Why is this two characters instead of one?

To show why I would expect it be 1, note that this cluster is actually interpreted as a valid emoji:

enter image description here

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This looks like a bug report. Why not send it to the Swift team? – n.m.
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unicode.org/reports/tr51 is a bit vague: "Whenever one of these characters immediately follows certain characters (such as WOMAN), then a font should show the sequence as a single glyph ..." – Martin R
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There is discussion of this point at bugs.swift.org/browse/SR-375 . Unfortunately, that does not throw much light on the situation. – emrys57
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Wow, I had not seen that Swift bug report! I probably should have. – Ray Toal

1 Answers 11

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Part of the answer is given in the bug report mentioned in emrys57's comment. When splitting a Unicode string into "characters", Swift apparently uses the Grapheme Cluster Boundaries defined in UAX #29 Unicode Text Segmentation. There's a rule not to break between regional indicator symbols, but there is no such rule for Emoji modifiers. So, according to UAX #29, the string "\u{1f6b4}\u{1f3fe}" contains two grapheme clusters. See this message from Ken Whistler on the Unicode mailing list for an explanation:

This results from the fact that the fallback behavior for the modifiers is simply as independent pictographic blorts, i.e. the color swatch images. [...] You need additional, specific knowledge about these sequences -- it doesn't just fall out from a default implementation of UAX #29 rules for grapheme clusters.

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