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 --
> 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,
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