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Re: [OT Why GB English is different] Re: Mozilla firefox en-gb

On Tuesday, 4 May 2004 23:13, Wendell Cochran wrote:

[Edited for brevity. The balance of the cited argument may have been 

> This seems as good a place as any to observe that English is
> emphatically open source.
> No one owns English.  No dictatorial authority sets rules of
> usage, & no one who tries can enforce a decree.  What works --
> works.
> Burn the dictionaries; kill the `grim grammarians in their golden
> gowns'; ban stylebooks.  Almost no one would notice.  People would
> go right on using their language just as they always have -- every
> user a developer.

I humbly disagree. Free and open source software is not about the abandonment 
of regulation and convention. In fact, it relies and thrives on conformity, 
where sensible.

Human language is a protocol for communication and is therefore a question of 
analysis and design rather than of implementation. English is not an open 
source implementation; it is an open standard (albeit with a number of forks 
who borrow freely from one another--English is arguably an extensible 

While many individuals use implementations of English that diverge from the 
RFC(s) through extensions (transparent or proprietary), omissions, 
modifications, and/or the use of obsolete constructs, that does not make them 
standardisation consortia. Of course, where widespread concensus on desired 
extensions *among those who fully understand the issue at hand* exists, 
language academies should take note.

You are correct in asserting that no-one owns English and that regulation 
thereof by definition cannot be dictatorial. However, as in computer 
communications, the effectiveness of any given implementation is directly and 
negatively impacted by its level of non-compliance with the appropriate 
*authoritarian* regulatory bodies' recommendations.

To advocate the burning of dictionaries is akin to rejecting the value of RFCs 
and W3C recommendations in favour of individual implementations whose 
protocols may not be documented for interaction with others. If anything, 
this endangers the openness of the current situation.

In fact, just as proprietary Web browsers put their own spin on W3C 
recommendations in an attempt to privatise what should remain Free standards, 
so do commercial interests try to snatch control of the English language from 
the public with marketing bastardisations such as `E-Z' for `easy', `kwik' 
for quick, and `disc' for `disk' as well as void constructions like `free 
air', `added bonus', and `free gift'. With enough concessions made to such 
commercial arrogance (made possible only by public complacency regarding the 
valuable standards that we have), communication, the raison d'être of 
language, suffers.

Alex Nordstrom

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