Subject: Re: PART TWO: winning industrial-use of lisp:  Re: Norvig's latest paper on Lisp
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 02:29:32 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* 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.