Re: [OT] Suggestion for next Debian release
> Deviant is a politically incorrect term (but you're free to use it).
> Yesterday's conformists may well be today's deviants. Imagine somebody
> wearing Victorian dress to work or speaking Shakespeare at a board
My apologies. I was aware of the incorrectness of deviant, but not
really conscious of it. I meant 'deviant' as 'one which deviates,' and
did not intend any innuendo.
While it is true that standards change, they are still standards. If we
are to run with your clothing analogy then we would say that, although
the standards have changed as years pass, there is still a standard to
which people must conform. There are certain modes of dress (not many,
but a few) which are illegal in Australia. Almost any pub that you go
to in Australia will turn you out if you aren't wearing shoes and a
shirt. You are not free to dress as you wish; there are constraints.
You have almost complete freedom within those constraints, but the
constraints are there. It is true that in certain contexts these
constraints are different, such as in the armed forces or certain
workplaces, but the constraints are still defined and must be conformed
To bring this analogy back to language, we would say that there are
constraints on the use of language. These constraints do vary; the
language we use here is not appropriate for technical documentation.
The language that I use at work is not appropriate when speaking to my
wife (she understands none of it) and she, being a biologist, can't
speak to me using the language of biology. So there are constraints
determined by the context. Note that these constraints do not make your
speech deterministic; there are still a very large number of correctly
expressing any idea in most of these contexts (with the possible
exception of with the wife ;-) and you are free to use any of them so
long as they conform to the constraints placed upon you by the context.
But see below for a major source of constraints.
> The problem with Microsoft would only be if they aggressively patent
> their protocols, etc. I see nothing wrong with Microsoft "deviating"
> from a supposed standard if others are allowed or are able to "deviate"
> along with them. As a non-native speaker of English, I place this text
> under the GPL (or is it FDL?) for you to borrow, criticise, flame or
> /dev/null. That isn't being Microsoft.
My objection to the mention of the GPL was not that you could place your
text under the GPL, but the claim that the *spirit* of the GPL
encouraged the incorrect use of language.
I disagree that this is the only problem with Microsoft. I think that
Microsoft are in a different position than most with regards to this
topic. If I write a server that speaks some strange protocol (say
TCSMTP - Tom Cook's SMTP) and publish it on the 'net, or even worse try
to sell it, then it will very quickly be discarded as a useless product
by a sort of natural selection; no-one else can understand it. But if
Microsoft do the same and publish MSTCSMTP (Microsoft's Stolen Tom
Cook's SMTP ;-) then it will be installed on a very large number of
servers, probably before anyone realises that it is bad. Now the
software world has a dilema. Do we harass Microsoft until they change
their protocol, or do we modify all our other products to be able to
communicate with Microsoft's version? It sounds like an easy question
to answer, but maybe isn't.
To bring this analogy back to speech again, if an individual speaks
English on a public forum in a manner incomprehensible to English
speakers then they are in the position of MSTCSMTP; their incorrect
English will die out. English speakers are kinder than Microsoft
however; we have not only made the effort to understand, and then asked
what he meant, but have then gone on to try to show him where he went
wrong and to help him speak it better. This seems to have caused you
offense, which I regret, but I do not regret the action which caused it;
I think it far closer to the 'spirit' of open source, whatever that may
be, than defending someone's right to be wrong.
> I didn't mean "however you want". What I meant was that the "rules" of
> English, as an international (rather than a literary) language,
> shouldn't be based solely on the usage of two nations. There should be
> German English, Japanese English and Chinese English in addition to the
> ones the British and the Americans are accustomed to speak. No, you have
> already been preempted. Look at the manual that came with your
> motherboard or UPS. That's Asian English for you! No use holding back
> the tide.
So, rather than having a language which everyone can understand, you
would rather have each country speaking its own mutually
incomprehensible version of English??? Why not just speak German,
Japanese and Chinese? I know you will say that they should be mutually
comprehensible, but I would remind you that what started this was a
sentence that several native English speakers on the list could not
> You talk about standards. The GNU folks have their website. Now show me
> a URL that claims that it has the final word on what is right in the
> English language. Is there an ANSI or ISO standard for English? My
> browser is waiting.
http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/ looks like a good place to
http://userpages.umbc.edu/~kpokoy1/grammar1.htm is another good source
If you browser is not satisfied, plug 'English Grammar' into google.
> No, I don't speak Esperanto. My point is simple. Everybody should have a
> second language (or a third, if we consider C or perl languages). It
> gains you the perspective to see the problems of a non-native speaker
> communicating in a language s/he may have learned only in college. If
> people whose mother tongue isn't English take the trouble to speak or
> write it, I think it's only fair that those "fortunate" to be born into
> the language should take the trouble to try to understand the meaning
> from imperfect message.
I have made several attempts at learning both German and French (all of
them disasterous, but attempts nonetheless). I think they were
unsuccessful because I don't know anyone who speaks German or French
_and_ no English, so I just talk to everyone in English. I don't have
the time to join the Adelaide German club, nor do I have the foldable
resources to spend a year in Europe.
Now you will argue that America and Britain (and her colonies) all have
their own dialect of English, so why not a few more? but I say that this
argument is false, since the English spoken by Americans and the British
people differ only in very minor regards; grammatically they are
identical, they have a very near to identical vocabulary, and have a few
minor and fairly deterministic spelling differences.
Moreover I object to the implication that we did not make an effort to
understand the intent of the original message. I personally spent
several minutes looking at the sentence trying to figure it out and
couldn't. Obviously someone else had the same problem since he wrote
back to say he didn't understand. When an explanation was given the
explainer was thanked several times, as I recall. We have also tried to
explain where the original author went wrong. What more would you like
us to do? Name it! and it is yours.
> In all natural languages, for every person who's misunderstood, there's
> another one who misunderstands. Just because I understand you doesn't
> me everybody will. Yes, you can destroy syntax and semantics, and still
> have a context. I think we celebrated it last Feb. 14.
Nonetheless the misunderstanding is not caused by both parties in equal
parts in all circumstances.
> > It should be noted that I am not trying to villify or condemn the author
> > of the original post. He has made a remarkable effort at learning
> > English, but his learning is incomplete. I do not blame him for this. I
> > personally know about six words of German, and, according to my wife, speak the
> > most execrable French she has ever had the misfortune to hear. But the claim
> > that it does not matter how English is used is one which I will not let
> > pass.
> > Regards
> > Tom
> If you didn't put that in, I would have thought you were flaming me. Or
> maybe I didn't catch your context despite your good, grammatically
> satisfactory English.
What is it to flame? If you mean to disagree with you strongly, and to
put that disagreeance into strong words, then yes, it was a flame. If
you mean that I am trying to ridicule you, or that I disrespect you, or
that I underestimate you, then no, I hope not. Please do not take it