Gentoo Archives: gentoo-doc

From: Peter Humphrey <prh@××××××××××.uk>
To: gentoo-doc@l.g.o
Subject: Re: [gentoo-doc] american english/british english/??? english
Date: Fri, 08 Jul 2005 09:35:14
In Reply to: Re: [gentoo-doc] american english/british english/??? english by Shyam Mani
Shyam Mani wrote:

>Jack Dark wrote: > > >>While browsing the docs in search of general spelling errors, I >>noticed that a few documents had internationalized spelling of certain >>words. Are the docs generally supposed to be written in American >>English--as most of the English ones seem to be--or is that >>unimportant? I have no particular preference either way; the addition >> >> > >I think that as long as we get the point across and the word/sentence is >correct english, it doesn't matter. > >
I think there's no such thing as "correct" English, as that would require a complete and consistent body of rules analogous to that of algebra, which is impossible in such a varied, complex field [1]. We should instead aim at idiomatic English, or even "proper" usage if you prefer. My opinion is that, to the extent to which one can generalise usefully, Americans try to establish a rigorous framework for whatever they do, including writing, whereas the British preference is to use judgment to interpret guidance - a very different approach. I spent two years in Minneapolis, and discovered that, in many subtle ways, the citizens of the so-called land of the free are in practice less free than we are in the UK. I don't mean this as a troll, just to illustrate the evident fact of different styles in UK and US. As an aside, education in the UK has suffered grievously from the attitude that adherence to norms doesn't matter, ever since the 1970s. I know you aren't discussing education, but I think it is nevertheless valuable to strive for high standards of expression.
>>or subtraction of a few letters from the odd word doesn't bother me. I >>was just wondering if doc writers are supposed to adhere to one >>consistent spelling scheme even though it might be outside of their >>region. >> >>
Here's an example: in English (not American) "outside of" is a noun phrase denoting a region: "the outside of" some boundary. The adverb we should use in your sentence is "outside". The UK and US versions of English differ in far more than spelling; on the contrary, I think it's just about the most trivial difference. Word order is a more important difference, and blind insistence on the Oxford comma is particularly confusing and therefore misguided. This is a good example of the preference for rigid rules that I mentioned above. I won't go into other pervasive influences such as the contribution of other languages on each side of the Atlantic. Not here, anyway.
>>For example, do the doc writers from the UK have to spell using >>American English (or Australian English), even though it's not what >>they're familiar with, or are the guidelines much more relaxed and >>permit one's native lexicon to be used? >> >> >Anyway, AFAIK, we have no rules on that, and I think it is darn too >trivial to sit and actually bother about. If the sentence >formation/spelling is good, we're okay. As an example, I recently >removed sections of a patch that changed correct British English to >American English like localisation to localization because it is >unnecessary to correct something that is already correct :) > >
I know of three approaches to the s/z problem: the American, which always uses Z, and two British usages of which one uses S and the other Z. This example is not a question of correctness but of personal preference. Lecture over... :-! I'd like to know what support there would be for splitting the two languages, so that original documents would be written using either the en_GB or the en_US locale and then be translated to the other. I'd be happy to contribute to such a translation effort. [1] "Time flies like an arrow; blue flies like a banana." "He broke the window with a stone; she broke the window with a curtain." I believe the AI community use couplets like these to illustrate the difficulty of extracting meaning from natural language. It is just not possible, in my opinion, to formulate a complete, consistent set of rules for application to the whole of any natural language. Or, more-or-less equivalently, if that ever were achieved, the result would be more difficult to apply than just getting on with using the language as we do already. -- Rgds Peter Humphrey Linux Counter 5290, Aug 93. -- gentoo-doc@g.o mailing list


Subject Author
Re: [gentoo-doc] american english/british english/??? english Shyam Mani <fox2mike@g.o>