Subject: Re: less parentheses --> fewer parentheses
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 2000/08/22
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Jochen Schmidt <>
| Do you speak in German so perfectly as you speak in English?
| Go sit in a corner and think about that!

  You aren't excused for this argument just because you're German.
  Language skills is not like a disease the better the less afflicted.
  If you can no longer improve your English, that's an indictment of a
  dysfunctional brain that _I_ certainly would not have made public.
  I do, however, speak and write English better than a very large
  fraction of its native speakers.  This is _not_ an accomplishment,
  mind you, and chances are pretty high you wouldn't be impressed with
  a random native speaker of English who spoke German as perfectly as
  he spoke English.  For illumination, _I_ speak Swahili _exactly_ as
  well as I speak Mandarin Chinese.

  The argument you made is usually made by people who _want_ to be
  sloppy and incompetent, and who are consequently scornful of whoever
  actually know their stuff.  I find such scorn towards competence to
  be _fantastically_ offensive.  It undermines and ridicules all that
  is human: our ability to learn from those who know more than us, to
  share experiences so we do not have to make them all our own, to be
  able to reason about thus derived knowledge without each one of us
  having to start from first principles.  Ridicule those who have the
  better skills, and you exemplify the anti-humanity that is prevalent
  in "modern" culture, which almost deifies stupidity, because it so
  democratic: _Everyone_ can be stupipd.  Not everyone can be skilled
  in every skill.  How unfair, then, to be supremely skilled when
  others are not skilled at all!  How _arrogant_ to know something so
  much better than your fellow man!  There lies the road to darkness.

  The less/fewer distinction is listed in a small book I got from my
  copy editor years ago: "1001 Pitfalls in English Grammar" -- it
  turned out to be exceptionally valuable.  Of course, without the
  occasional reminder from people who actually _define_ the language,
  it is nigh impossible to improve.  Scorn them, and they will not try
  again with you, and perhaps not with others.  Scorn stupidity and
  lack of skills, instead, but more importantly, listen well to those
  who know something you don't and learn from them, _especially_ if
  they disagree with you in whatever way.  (If you can't learn from
  something or someone that disagrees with you, chances are you can't
  learn from anything.)

  This has the obvious repercussions for Common Lisp usage.

  If this is not what you expected, please alter your expectations.