Subject: Re: PART TWO: winning industrial-use of lisp: Re: Norvig's latest paper on Lisp From: Erik Naggum <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 02:29:32 GMT Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <email@example.com> * John Wiseman | From what I've read in multiple places, it's more the other way around. "He" | as a gender-neutral pronoun came about because of meddling prescriptivist | grammarians and an act of English Parliament. Huh? An act of British Parliament? Never heard that one before. (I have no idea what an English Parliament is, so I assume it is British. If it is the language English that has a Parliament, I have never heard of that, either.) | Long-standing tradition before then, and the custom I use because it feels | quite natural, is to use "they" as a singular gender-neutral pronoun. There is some record of illiterate use of "they" in this function, but that usage lost grounds a _really_ long time ago. Lots of things have turned out to be bad ideas, yet become revived when people of little clue need to find ways to be protest some authority or another, and think the right way is to use something that predates the decision they protest. This is really funny to watch from the outside. Arguing with tradition alone is quaintly British, but selectivity in adopting lost traditions has always appeared affected to me. It can have some effect, as in Do What Thou Wilst, but overall, I think it reeks of silliness more than anything else. | I recommend trying it. It feels good. They does not know grammar, but they knows what they likes. Feels terribly grating on my ear, almost as literate as various "dialects" of English spoken by people who go out of their way to sound illiterate because some part of their misguided notion of identity is tied up with some "social background" or something, denial of which is communicated through learning to speak and write properly. Most of the time, people who do this do not even know what the right thing is, which I find utterly amazing. What _is_ the point of breaking a "rule" if you do not know what it is? Of course, lack of knowledge of something does not imply a protest, but he who lacks knowledge will adjust his behavior when brought up to date. People who identify with some defect will do the opposite -- they will make certain that they defect is more easily detectible. But how does it work to say something politically incorrect with "they" as a singular third-person pronoun? Nothing worse than to hold unpopular opinions seems hypocritical when you go to such trouble to appease other people's sensitivities. Even the expression of some novel idea that _could_ offend someone, somewhere, appears to me an insult to those whose hypersensibilities you sought to protect and serve by avoiding "sexist" language. Selectivity in which group you seek to offend the least seems a guarantee that the very group you want to protect from self-inflicted pain and anguish will turn on you if you say something else in their protected language that they do not like. The whole concept of changing your language in order to appease people who lose their marbles because they are too immature to take care of their own emotions seems so frought with danger of losing the ability to express yourself if you should happen to disagree with anybody at all that the cost must be weighed against the loss of not appeasing the first group. My stand on this issue has probably come from letting the pendulum swing equally far to the other side, but I consider appeasing hypersensitive dweebs appallingly obsequious, the kind of disgusting servitude to mediocrity that directors so decry when they are forced to conform to movie ratings, that musical artists despair over when their artistic expression is curtailed in the name of the "children" or somesuch totalitarian government-as-parent nonsense, etc. If people cannot even deal with a masculine pronoun, just how pampered do they have to be to quit whining? (A recent ruling by Norway's press ethics board stated unequivocally that an image of a dildo on the front page of a weekly magazine supplement to a newspaper was not unethical conduct, and the feeble- minded loser who whined about this only caused the front page he got so upset about to be published anew to an audience who probably would never have cared. In the past, the ethics board has ruled against religious nuts unable to deal with such upsetting topics as human sexuality and contraception, so there is no particular reason to rejoice, but I am still happy that yet another dork saw his attempts to push his personal sensitivities on all of society through government controls resoundingly squashed.) The inevitable effect that politically correct affectations produce is that your readers will _know_ that you find it more important to express your dislike of the English language and your political affiliation with "radical" groups than any actual ideas that are worth communicating. This is, of course, perfectly OK if you have nothing to say to begin with, but if you have anything to say that would cause someone, somewhere, to go up in flames (and it is probably not worth saying unless someone does), you do _not_ want them to have a _legitimate_ gripe with your politicized language. Just look at this newsgroup: we have people here who have absolutely _nothing_ to say, yet complain about the lack of "measured debate" when their anal-retentive word-list-based stylometer beeps. Simple people can evidently be derailed by the simplest mechanisms available, losing all track of any _purpose_ to their "measured debate", and unless you do this in order to know them by name to avoid wasting time on what appears to be intelligent conversation because they have mimicked the appearance of far more intelligent people, like some insects have evolved to mimick the appearance of _their_ predators, it is clearly unwise to antagonize readers who would more than likely appreciate your argumentation if you did not use a style that only communicates that your goal is to express dissatisfaction with something they may actually value highly. There are different kinds of effects to measure here, too. Using a polysyllabic lexicon, fewer people with nothing worthwhile to say will choose to chime in -- a larger vocabularly works like a repellent for the dreadfully stupid, and much more efficiently than countering inevitable meaningless blathering after the fact with attempts to inform them of their failure to grasp the most basic arguments or points. This, of course, is just another form of stylistic affectation, intentionally designed to ward off a certain class of readers. It is no less noble as such than a desire to confront and annoy those who find radical faminism to be entirely beside the point, but at least it may be argued that getting rid of the pollutants in a forum preventatively is worth the cost of a slightly more flowery style less emanable to speed reading. One should, naturally, ignore such things if the contents is worth reading, but, like, novelty spelling, broken grammar is a message that the author cares more about his pet peeves than his readers. Unfortunately, there is a political counter-effect in still using "man" to refer to human beings in a climate of recognized verbal allergies -- people who are self-hypersensitized about this issue will go nuts when they read _real_ English, proving that they are far more interested in their own pet sensitivity that absolutely anything else. I mean, people who rise from anonymity to say stupid things about the "method of debate" instead of actually doing something on their own that would help attain that elevated form of discourse they so admire, tell me that they are _completely_ vacuous, have nothing whatsoever to offer anyone, and should be kill-filed immediately if it were not for their massively annoying behavior, which one should help stomp out. The meta-debate is the scourge of USENET, but whether it is some jerk who goes bananas because someone said the F word or some jerk who goes bananas because someone said the H word (no, not Hell, "he"). it is equally disturbing and at cross-purpose to any forum not explicitly catering to the hypersensitive crowds. Like my home is full of cat hairs to keep those pesky allergics out, I think one should explicitly annoy hypersenstiive people so they "out" themselves. Well, no, not really, but it is important not to let some group of immature emotional freaks or other handicapped people set the agenda -- catering to their special needs should be a benevolent gesture, not a damn requirement forced upon all people everywhere. Rewarding deficiencies causes people to desire _not_ to be normal, and they tie their identity to their deficiencies, just like dialects and other regional mispronunciations. People who consider normal bad should be treated for their delusions, not rewarded with dictionary entries and style guides that tell them it is OK to "feel excluded" because you have boobs and some author used "man" to refer to human beings or "he" to refer to what you wanted to be female. Feelings like that are just plain wrong and should _not_ be anybody else's problem. -- Guide to non-spammers: If you want to send me a business proposal, please be specific and do not put "business proposal" in the Subject header. If it is urgent, do not use the word "urgent". If you need an immediate answer, give me a reason, do not shout "for your immediate attention". Thank you.