Subject: Re: The Aesthetics of Symbols (was Re: Uppercasing symbols)
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1998/12/09
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* eric dahlman <>
| One of the great problems with trying to computationally parse and
| analyze natural languages is that the components of the language do
| not have a single exact meaning or purpose.  That is elements can be
| uses to convey information or they can convey "error bits" that help
| the receiver correct what they hear.  Consider your joke example "Bill
| Gates is great, as long as `bill' is a verb." you assert that
| intrinsic importance of the first word is lost by upcasing it.
| However, the joke interpretation of "bill Gates is great..." does not
| parse because of the improper verb form.

  sigh.  I think I'll add force to your former assertion by asking you to
  consider the insertion of a pair of quotation marks around "bill Gates",
  to _make_ it a valid verb-object expression.  part of what makes us laugh
  at jokes is the effort and intelligence required to make them make sense.
| That is not to say that there are not cases of genuine ambiguity but this
| is not one where upcasing necessarily looses.

  how about lose vs loose?  (OK, that was a cheap shot, but it isn't just a
  spelling mistake.)

| I touched on this before, the code for determining this can be quite
| bad but this is already in the realm of natural language processing
| where nothing is easy.

  but why make it so much harder for no good reason?  computers can
  capitalize the first word of a sentence trivially if they want to.  they
  can't return the word to what it once was without excessive computational
  power, and frequently get it wrong.  therefore, I don't capitalize the
  first word of a sentence in electronic text, but leave it to the
  print/paper/final edition.

| As for moving beyond the point where all text is understandable by
| humans, I am not sure that I agree.  In this case we are talking about
| programming languages which are the interface between the thought
| process of the human and the computation process of the machine.  It
| needs to be understandable by both.

  hm.  let's look at what I wrote, compared to what you think it said:

|    we've grown beyond the evolutionary stage where all there is to text
|    is understanding by humans.

  how _did_ this get warped into "beyond the point where all text is
  understandable by humans"?  I may have thought you were are bad piece of
  NLP software for not getting the "bill Gates" joke, but this is getting
  to annoy me.  do me a favor and expend the effort required to grasp the
  meaning of what you respond to.  if you don't grasp it, complain.  if you
  don't want to expend that effort either way, don't reply.  OK?

  it is _precisely_ "understandable by both" which is my point.  your
  stupid defense of the ancient ritual of upcasing the first letter of a
  sentence gives me a clear indication that you are not ready to understand
  what is involved, yet speak a lot about it.

  that is, there is no need to agree with me, but there is even less need
  to defend the status quo.  fact is, I have come to see this argument as a
  yardstick on whether people are able to understand that old habits are
  just that: old habits, and that they need to think about why they want to
  keep them.  I say: _always_ question the status quo, learn how it came to
  be, but do _not_ accept without understanding, and above all: _never_
  defend without deep understanding of the alternatives as well.

  don't call people who don't understand statistics idiots.  take their money.