In the last couple of days my locales have a serious issue. I normally am "en_GB.UTF-8". Suddenly when running apt, error messages are appearing saying

Traceback (most recent call last):
File "/usr/bin/apt-listchanges", line 33, in <module>
from ALChacks import *
File "/usr/share/apt-listchanges/ALChacks.py", line 32, in <module>
sys.stderr.write(_("Can't set locale; make sure $LC_* and $LANG are correct!\n"))
NameError: name '_' is not defined
perl: warning: Setting locale failed.
perl: warning: Please check that your locale settings:
LANGUAGE = (unset),
LC_ALL = (unset),
LC_TIME = "en_gb",
LC_MONETARY = "en_gb",
LC_NUMERIC = "en_gb",
LANG = "en_US.utf8"
are supported and installed on your system.
perl: warning: Falling back to the standard locale ("C").
locale: Cannot set LC_CTYPE to default locale: No such file or directory
locale: Cannot set LC_MESSAGES to default locale: No such file or directory
locale: Cannot set LC_ALL to default locale: No such file or directory
Gtk-WARNING **: Locale not supported by C library.
Using the fallback 'C' locale. at /usr/share/perl5/Debconf/FrontEnd    /Gnome.pm line 97, <> line 1.

Also if I try to run "gnome-control-center region" it either segfaults or the GUI appears, but if I try to set anything, it segfaults. Notice the "en_gb"s in the error message - a lower-case "GB" is illegal. Also I don't think en_US even exists as a locale on my system. When I login a dialog asks me if I want to rename directories as "my language has changed" - a bit disturbing. I think it started after an update, but I did try to install gnome-shell 3.2 from sid (because I mistakenly believed it would be easy to fulfil its dependencies, & wanted to use gnome extensions). I rolled it back, but could that have bent something out of shape? If so what should I reinstall?

Output of /usr/bin/locale:

locale: Cannot set LC_CTYPE to default locale: No such file or directory
locale: Cannot set LC_MESSAGES to default locale: No such file or directory
locale: Cannot set LC_ALL to default locale: No such file or directory

Output of locale -a:

  • What's the output of locale -a and locale?
    – user13742
    Jan 3, 2012 at 22:08

2 Answers 2


Locale definitions take up a lot of disk space (if you add up all the different locales that are available), so Debian and other distributions generate them upon request. On Debian, run dpkg-reconfigure locales (as root) and select the locales you are interested in. Make sure to check the box for en_US.utf8 (and other en_US variants while you're at it). Also, some categories are strangely declared as en_gb; search for the string en_gb in your configuration files (grep -r en_gb ~/.[!.]* /etc) and fix the offending file.

  • Yes, I've done this several times. I suspect some python mapping, where the locales are mapped to internal representations (I think) that are lower case. That was the only example of en_gb I could find. Unfortunately after reconfiguring locales, they look ok, but control centre still segfaults & on reboot everything is back the same again. My locale is en_GB by the way - I don't want or need en_US as its not my language. Until 3 days ago(ish) my locale was set to en_GB.UTF8 (& only that) & everything was fine Jan 4, 2012 at 10:23
  • @andywebsdale You have $LANG set to en_US.utf8. If you don't want that, you need to track down the setting (either at the system level, in /etc, or in your dot files) and remove it, or override it (e.g. with unset LANG in ~/.profile). Jan 4, 2012 at 11:17
  • I've been using Debian since Potato, & using the same locale. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. Jan 4, 2012 at 21:09
  • (too late for edit) Tried grepping already, also just did your suggested grep - nothing came up(as expected). I think the problem is in some code, otherwise gnome-control-center wouldn't segfault, would it? Jan 4, 2012 at 21:16
  • @andywebsdale Something is setting LANG to en_US.utf8. Does it happen if you log in on a text console or over ssh? Jan 4, 2012 at 21:29

Finally found where the "en_gb" was coming from. Ran dconf (the new gconf2-style gnome config replacement. I should've checked these settings before :-). Under system->locale, lo! & behold! there it is. I altered it to "en_GB" & restarted the Gnome session. Now the output of /usr/bin/locale is exactly as expected, no lower-case locales & no spurious en_US ones either. Not sure how the dconf stting came to be miss-set. I certainly have no memory of doing it myself & can't think why I'd want to alter it either. "gnome-control-center region" works fine now also. No segfaulting, & all seems to work OK. Bit shabby that a non-existent locale causes it to fall over, surely it wouldn't be too hard to fail more gracefully & perhaps offer up an informative message. Thanks to Gilles for his helpful suggestions - he was right about the config aspect, I don't know how I missed it. Shall have to see how dconf data is actually stored.

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