Subject: Re: Polymorphism in Common Lisp
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 11:42:46 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Software Scavenger
> What I want to do is make it as short and clear as possible to contradict
> the claim that Haskell programs are shorter and clearer than Lisp
> programs.

  Clearly, Haskell must have been used for something that Common Lisp can
  do better?  Rather than let Haskell set the baseline, let Common Lisp set
  the baseline and try to show what long and verbose code Haskell needs to
  do the same thing.  E.g., it, too, should do poorly for parsing XML.  :)

> But is that the best I could do?  The Haskell version still seems
> slightly shorter and clearer.

  Every language has been optimized for _some_ forms of expression.  That
  you have found that Haskell is doing well in what it was clearly intended
  to do is hardly surprising -- there is absolutely no reason to think the
  Haskell people are idiots.  The same goes for Perl.  Of _course_ it wins
  hands down in the area of economy of expression for its intended tasks.

  The _real_ issue in these heavily optimized languages is whether there is
  a huge disparity of compactness for problems of similar complexity of
  abstraction and expression.  This is where Common Lisp truly excels
  beyond _any_ other language.  You may, and some do, complain that there
  is no super-compact expression of some particular problems, but what you
  completely miss is that the _penalty_ for thinking "outside of the box"
  or outside of the "intended" uses of the language is _also_ absent.

  Optimization of design has _huge_ costs in terms of what you can _not_ do
  efficiently.  This factor is almost always ignored in language comparisons
  because people are happy to switch languages and so enjoy creating _new_
  ones that they can optimize for some miniscule little featurette, until,
  of course, they run into the popularity problem and their languages grow
  so large that the time a human mind needs to learn to use it efficiently
  will have dwarfed any _real_ savings from economy of expression.

  But by all means, write qsort in Haskell and hello, world in C.  I am not
  sure what you are going to _do_ what those two utilities, however.  If
  you have a language that is good at demonstrating such things, maybe it
  has been optimized for demonstrations?  At least one really huge software
  company has made the bulk of its earnings on its ability to demonstrate
  to other people that the real users what they could do.

  From the Latin word "imponere", base of the obsolete English "impone" and
  translated as "impress" in modern English, Nordic hackers have coined the
  terms "imponator" (a device that does nothing but impress bystanders,
  referred to as the "imponator effect") and "imponade" (that "goo" that
  fills you as you get impressed with something -- from "marmelade", often
  referred as "full of imponade", always ironic).

  I am not sure _exactly_ what about Haskell prompted me to tell you about
  those two Nordic hacker jargon terms, however.  :)