Subject: Re: On comparing apples and oranges (was: Q: on hashes and counting)
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 26 Oct 2000 03:39:42 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Adam Sampson <>
| Yes---but if someone isn't bothering to check their spelling before
| posting, they're unlikely to take too much notice of any corrections
| given.

  So let's ignore them as hopeless cases and move on.  I don't share
  your dismal view of man, I'm happy to say.  People usually care if
  they are rewarded for it, rather than punished, which some cultures
  do, and if you pardon a cultural stereotype, I regard the British as
  particularly careless when it comes to their own language.  This is
  not true for Americans.  That is, I see a lot more mis-spelled words
  and weak to non-existent grammar in British writing than in American
  -- coupled with a tendency to use slang so much that it becomes nigh
  impossible for anyone but townsfolk to understand many people.

| If you've spelt a word the incorrect way for the last ten years,
| it'll take more effort than many people are willing to spend in
| order to change to the correct spelling.

  There are people who write incorrectly on purpose and those who do
  it by accident.  The latter are more than likely _ashamed_ of the
  discovery that they have mis-spelled a word for a decade, and that
  shame translates into an impetus to correct it.  I guess people who
  don't care about much are so much part of your experience they have
  become your standard view of people, but I beg to differ.

| The major differences between British dialects are in the way vowel
| sounds (rather than entire words) are pronounced, and in the dialect
| words used; although someone who grew up in Yorkshire will pronounce
| "discuss" and "understand" with different "u" and "a" sounds from
| me, it's possible to translate from a Yorkshire pronunciation to a
| Kent pronunciation without too much difficulty---which presumably is
| why it's possible to indicate pronunciations for words in
| dictionaries without having an alternative phonetic spelling for
| each dialect on each entry, and why it's possible for people with
| different accents to understand each other.

  Well, I beg to differ.  The only place I have _serious_ problems
  understanding what evidently passes for "English" among the natives
  is the United Kingdom.  It could be because some dialects have found
  that actually pronouncing most of the phonemes is unnecessary when
  they have a vocabulary of about 1000 words, or it could be the very
  low levels of education in major regions of the United Kingdom, but
  I have virtually no problems understanding English-speaking people
  from any of the colonies compared to the British Isles, and most of
  the English spoken by people whose mother tongue is something else
  entirely is better than the hopeless mess that is British English.
  The extensive literature I have on the English language is also
  filled to the brim with weird regionalisms in the United Kingdom,
  while most other English-speaking regions of the world have come to
  a sort of agreement on what "English" means.  Good British English
  is spoken by about 2% of the population, and the rest are hopeless
  mispronouncers and manglers if you ask me.

| >   "How to go wrong if you don't care what you're doing" is not a
| >   particularly interesting thing to discuss, is it?
| Depends on your point of view. It's not what you meant, but looking at
| how people make mistakes when writing can give some useful clues as to
| how the brain deals with language; there's some extremely interesting
| discussion about this in Douglas Hofstadter's "Fluid Concepts and
| Creative Analogies".

  I'll pick it up, but I generally don't care about people who don't
  care.  I figure it's the least I can do to ignore them completely.
  I do not consider those who consider anything achievable without
  effort to be worth talking about, because what happens to them is
  clearly accidental and hence in a "natural" state that reminds me of
  what happens to a language when you leave individual villages to
  speak their own warped versions in isolation for hundreds of years.
  (We have the same tragic development of Norwegian, only worse than
  British -- at least you have _one_ authority; we have three.)

  I agree with everything you say, but I would
  attack to death your right to say it.
				-- Tom Stoppard