The examples are too shallow: “stylistically offset” a span of text from the natural flow? <span class=”some_class_to_set_it_apart> comes to mind. Tedious, sure, but semantically correct, and in line with the W3C’s objective of separating content from presentation.
Encouraging the use of presentational elements in HTML is a step backward in the evolution of the language. “Usage varies by language” — precisely the reason why contextual standards should be in place.