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Re: Consensus on MT-, AS- and AC-Safety docs.

There's a linguistics argument to be made here.

Someone who's reading the manual is there to learn something; they're
learning not just definitions, but a language.  After all, cryptic
function names that are very familiar to us may very well be new to
them.  There's no reason for us to strive to steer away from new words:
consumers of the manual will deal with that.  There's more: they
*expect* to and *want* to deal with that; they're reading the manual
precisely because they want to learn what those new words mean.

Now, the binding of words to meaning, to concepts, is totally arbitrary.
A word is comfortable, familiar, preferable, just because you know what
it means.  And it is so as long as it does indeed mean what you expect.
I recall a foreign acquaintaince who came to a conference in Brazil and
asked me, quite confused, how come the word ânoâ occurred so often in
Portuguese text but at points in which it didn't seem to indicate a
negative sentence.  It's a contraction of the Portuguese words for âinâ
and âtheâ; nothing to do with the English word ânoâ.  But his
familiarity with English as his (presumably) second language (he is
Dutch) just got him confused when he tried to guess the meaning of the
word in a context he was not familiar with.

Now what's being proposed here is that we avoid inventing new words that
would carry the precise meanings we need, and instead resort to existing
words that don't get even close to bringing to mind this meaning, just
because the words are familiar and thus easier.

I liken that to suggesting the words âWarning!  Water!â for a sign meant
to alert people to dangerously strong currents in a river.  Yeah, the
danger has to do with water, but *repurposing* the word water to allude
to something else, namely âdangerously strong currentsâ, is a
disservice!  Readers might very well think âok, that's ok, I can swimâ.
It's obviously superior to spell the problem out in full, but if that
won't fit in the sign, then what?  Considering that foreign tourists
amount to most of the visitors of the area, and they are sure to have a
dictionary handy to look up words they're not familiar with, using a
term that may be unfamiliar to them but present in the dictionary they
can look up is much better than repurposing a term they probably already
know, but meaning something not unrelated, but still significantly
different from what it normally means.

Now, we know our readers are there to learn new words, and our goal in
the manual is precisely to teach them the meaning of these new words.
Repurposing existing terms to mean something not unrelated, but still
significantly different from what they normally mean, is just as
inferior a solution as creating new terms for them to look up and get
the precise meaning from then on.

Reusing terms for different meanings may seem comfortable because you
don't have to learn new words, but when you realize it means you're
overloading words, and this means ambiguity, I don't think that's
advantageous in the end.  You end up faling to convey the very knowledge
that people were there to learn.

Alexandre Oliva, freedom fighter
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Gandhi
Be Free! --   FSF Latin America board member
Free Software Evangelist      Red Hat Brazil Compiler Engineer

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