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Re: A possible approach in "solving" the FDL problem

On Fri, Aug 15, 2003 at 01:35:35PM -0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> Wouter Verhelst <wouter@grep.be> wrote:
> > I know; I meant 'clarifying it for people who read the text'. That means
> > adding a note before or after the text of the DFSG and/or the SC which
> > says something along the lines of...
> I look forward to seeing your copy of the SC and DFSG where every word
> is linked to the correct alternative in a dictionary definition.

Bullshit. I'm not even remotely suggesting we start describing each and
every word that appears in the SC or in the DFSG; I'm only suggesting a
note is appropriate if it is shown that the meaning of a word isn't
shared by everyone.

This is the case with the word "software".

The meaning of a word is more than its etymology. More important than
what the original meaning was, is how people generally perceive the
meaning of the word. As such, hundreds of words have changed and shifted
their meanings over the years. That's a normal part of using language;
denying it isn't doing anyone any good -- especially not if the
interpretation of the text you're writing is important. If you can
convince me that how people read and understand the DFSG isn't
important at all, be my guest.

Why do you think most legalese texts start with a description of words
of which you could generally assume most people more or less understand
their meanings?

> If that isn't your intent, I ask you to consider starting a Debian
> Dictionary Review Project, so that we can be sure that all developers
> are using sane dictionaries when reading Debian project materials.
> Alternatively, we could assume some clue.

Alternatively, we could remember that some people aren't native english
speakers, and that in some other languages, the word 'software' has a
different meaning as compared to what the english meaning is. If I check
Van Dale (the leading Dutch dictionary, probably comparable to the
Oxford English Dictionary), the word 'software' clearly *isn't* any more
than programs:

wouter@rock:~$ gnuvd software
'soft-ware (de ~, ~s)
1 verzamelnaam voor besturings- en toepassingsprogramma's =>
programmatuur;  hardware
[... the dutch word for "software package" snipped ...]

("collection name"[1] for operating- and application programs =>[2]
"programmatuur"[3]; hardware).

As Dutch is my native language, I don't think it's hard to understand
why I misinterpreted the DFSG at my first reading. I'm sure I'm not
alone, and I'm also sure Dutch is not the only language which is alone
in this.

My suggestion of adding a note to the DFSG or the SC isn't changing
anything of it either -- it's just clarifying. I'm not sure I
understand why you're opposed to that suggestion.

[1] not sure whether that's an accurate translation, or even a correct
english term; a 'verzamelnaam' is a word which describes a group of
subjects (such as 'beer'), rather than just one (such as 'ginger ale').
[2] the arrow in gnuvd's output is used for crossreferences. Nobody's
suggesting software is similar to hardware :-)
[3] in Dutch, "programmatuur" is a synonym for software. There's no
correct translation, other than 'software' itself (which would be quite

Wouter Verhelst
Debian GNU/Linux -- http://www.debian.org
Nederlandstalige Linux-documentatie -- http://nl.linux.org
"An expert can usually spot the difference between a fake charge and a
full one, but there are plenty of dead experts." 
  -- National Geographic Channel, in a documentary about large African beasts.

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