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Language grab-bag, chapter 1


Why did English invent “your”/“you’re” and “their”/“they’re”/“there” in the first place? UX bug 💔

Missing features from Swedish

Loke wrote in, saying

How about the fact that there is only one word for grandfather? And where is the word for a 24-hour period? And why on earth did they stop using separate words for singular and plural you? Thou and thee are pretty useful.

Verb agreement are probably the trickiest one for me. I sounds like a Metalocalypse character when I speaks.

The thou/thee issue is a similar story to the Swedish “du”-reform except they went the other way. It was a tangled web of politeness and now everyone is “you”, easy-peasy. When you specifically need to disambiguate for plural, there is “you guys”, “y’all”, “you peeps”, “you dorks”, “you jerks”, “you fine people” etc.


Problem isn’t that there are too few pronouns, it’s that there are too many.

It would be enough to have:

along with disambiguators for plural etc.

Even having “thou” and “thee” (case dependent pronoun forms) is pretty messed up.

Using the place-holder vars $1, $2 and $3 for those pronoun categories, you could say: “If $2 see my boss come into the shop today, tell $3 that $1 won’t be back for another few days.”

Lojban uses textual proximity to dereference pronouns; you have “most recently mentioned thing” as a separate pronoun from “that thing I talked about a while ago”.

Japanese doesn’t have he/him or she/her but the word for “I”, your own self, is different depending on who you are. So that’s where you can put in your weird otherkin Chris Claremont friendself pronouns and everyone will get it right away.

The Nameless Name

In programming, it can be a lot of fun to try to cut down on vars. Like stack based languages, or the (much beloved by me) -> operator in Clojure. I’m not sure why I like this, it doesn’t really serve any purpose. It doesn’t make the code easier to read or reason about or more efficient to execute. I just really, really enjoy this style (or using long compose-chains). Since what the thinker thinks, the prover will prove, I might kid myself into some sorta reasoning for it, but I mean, lieu of any studies (which might very well prove the opposite, that most people have an easier time reasoning about code when they can put names to things, such as var names), that reasoning is pretty meaningless.

Uh, the “prover” is already starting its process… I am noticing thoughts like “whaddayamean, Sandra, it’s way nicer to read code just following along what it does without having to put everything in its own separate labeled drawer, like isn’t (-> 10 (- 2) (/ 5) (* 3)) easier than (let* ((a 10) (b (- a 2)) (c (/ b 5)) (* c 3))) ? It’s way easier!” Yeah, yeah, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. All I do know w/o doing some multi-year, multi-participant study is that the former, the nameless version, feels better, to me.

(Parenthetical a few days later: Oh, yeah, this is called “point-free”, I forgot about that. Well, I’m into it!)

But it’s me so it’s OK

Huh, if you switch the position of the blanks in this snowclone:

it’s ____, but it’s ____ so it’s OK

it changes from OK to not OK.

it’s wrong, but it’s funny so it’s OK

it’s funny, but it’s wrong so it’s not OK

Or to paraphrase Ollie in DKR:

it’s a loud kind of mysterious, but it’s mysterious so it’s OK

it’s mysterious, but it’s a loud kind of mysterious so it’s not OK

Or from McCloud’s Making Comics p90:

you’re a liar, but you’re my kind of liar, so it’s OK

Conclusion: “but it’s ____ so it’s OK” is sometimes not legit. Nor is “but it’s ____ so it’s not OK” for that matter. As I always say: ya gotta case-by-case it! Don’t get fooled♥︎

Or maybe it’s like this:

For example, “it’s wrong, but there is consent, so it’s OK” — well, then was not really wrong, is it? If you swap it it doesn’t make sense.