Subject: Re: What should S-expression based languages be called?  (was: Re: Why is Scheme not a Lisp?)
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 23:40:39 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Erann Gat
| I don't care if someone says "Clyde is an elephant" or "Clyde is a member
| of the pachyderm family of animals" (except insofar as the latter seems
| unnecessarily pedantic to me).

  Is this intended to be anywhere close to what we are discussing here?  Do
  you _really_ not undestand what we are discussing, or is this just more
  of your obnoxiousness?  How about "Scheme is an elephant"?  Does the fact
  that this is meaningful tell you something about the English langauge?

| Likewise, "Scheme is a member of the Lisp family of languages" is to me
| simply a wordier version of "Scheme is a Lisp."  Nonetheless, I accept
| that you choose to distinguish between them, and I'll try to respect that
| distinction.

  Then, in the service of civility and reduced hostility, why not use the
  least offensive phrase when they are equivalent to you, but not to those
  who disagree with you?  Your continued refusal to get the point must mean
  that obonxiousness is the _purpose_ of sticking to "is a Lisp".

| Since you agree that Scheme is a member of the Lisp family of languages
| it seems that what the historical disagreement is really about is whether
| the word "Lisp" means "the Lisp family of languages" or "Common Lisp" (as
| opposed to, say, whether the schema "X is a member of the class of Y" is
| less offensive than "X is a Y").  Is that right?

  Perhaps you may, in time, figure out that words do not just have
  denotations and definitions, but also connotations and context-dependent
  meaning, that expressions have more than one value, that what we do not
  say is frequently as important as what we do say.  In _isolation_ "Lisp"
  is the family of languages, to those who know that "the Lisp family"
  exists in the first place.  To those who do not, "X is a Lisp and Y is a
  Lisp" means that X and Y have something in common, that knowing one makes
  it possible to predict something about the other.  This is not true of
  the interesting parts of Common Lisp and Scheme.  By de-emphasing this
  connotation, and emphasizing the "familiy" property of the name "Lisp",
  you do in fact communicate something that novices can use and learn
  something from, instead of just confusing them with misguided beliefs.

  Those who do know both languages, know that they and their communities
  differ enormously, and far more so than they are interestingly similar.
  American may not care much which of the Scandnavian counrties I come
  from, or which of the three official (make that four unofficial)
  Norwegian languages I speak, or which of the several and mutually
  unintelligible dialects of these languages I favor, but summing it all up
  in "Norwegian" is pretty accurate from 3000 miles away.  Over here,
  people ask me whether I actually say "sprog" and not "språk" and whether
  I say "benfri stek" instead of "beinfri steik" and some react with
  hostility because of this, which they believe is the language of the
  upper class, which is officially abolished in Norwegian political
  mythology, only because the illiterate mob use more diphthongs than the

  In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none.
  In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.