309 reputation
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bio website uptoisomorphism.com
location falling down all these questions
age 31
visits member for 1 year, 5 months
seen Jun 12 '13 at 14:16

"The utility of a language as a tool of thought increases with the range of topics it can treat, but decreases with the amount of vocabulary and the complexity of grammatical rules which the user must keep in mind. Economy of notation is therefore important." -- K. Iverson

"Civilization advances by extending the number of operations which we can perform without thinking about them." -- A. N. Whitehead

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.


Apr
16
comment Does DRM affect copyright or the restrictions on distribution by the author?
Worse, DRM inconveniences exactly two groups: legitimate users, and people who create pirated copies. These are also the groups of people who actually pay the author. The people who merely acquire pirated copies are left with a superior product at a lower price point. Consumers will and do pay for convenience; if you can't even beat the pirates on that, might as well just give up.
Apr
9
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
@Jay: It is and has been accepted English grammar among everyone but uninformed, self-appointed "grammar" experts and those unfortunate enough to trust them. I do agree it loses a useful distinction, but hey, them's the breaks--if you're writing in English for a modern audience you do yourself no favors by avoiding quasi-singular "they". Or by using "thou", or using invented gender-neutral pronouns, or whatever else. Tilting at grammatical windmills may be fun, but it really ain't gonna improve your writing.
Apr
5
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
@LaurenIpsum: Using "they" in that manner is grammatically no different from how "you" is used, which was the point of my comments about "thou" earlier. Call it "prescriptivist" if you please and write how you prefer, but as a "rule" it's very simply wrong, and suggesting "convoluted avoidance" instead is bad advice, especially to a non-native speaker as I suspect the OP is, who's trying to write in a less-formal context.
Apr
5
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
@LaurenIpsum: The main thing you should realize, though, is that this is not in any way controversial. The idea of "he" being the sole traditional generic singular third-person pronoun is common only among those who've studied neither linguistics nor the history of the English language, and is the result of a deliberate attempt to impose that rule somewhere around the 1800s.
Apr
5
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
@LaurenIpsum: See the links in my previous comment. There's also some citations on Wiktionary. I doubt you'll find any uses older than the quote from Chaucer; "And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame / They wol come up and offre a Goddés name" is already pushing the early limits of what's recognizable and readable as English for most people.
Apr
5
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
@NeilFein: No detailed sources at hand right now. The Wikipedia article has a few examples, including a use of the much-maligned construction "theymselfe" in 1489. This is really a question for linguists, who after all make their living pondering rules of language use. The english.SE might be able to help. I can dig up better sources later tonight, if you like.
Apr
5
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
@LaurenIpsum: "Thou" is the traditional English second-person singular pronoun, "you" is second-person plural. So your comment should read "...thou ask" instead of "...you ask", if the idea is to avoid using plural pronouns as singular. :] In modern English of the last few centuries, of course, both "you" and "they" are used as singular.
Apr
5
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
Generic "he" is the historically recent rule. "They" as generic singular predates it. And, as I pointed out in another comment, "you" is also a plural pronoun misused as a singular (polite vs. the familiar "thou", i.e. the T-V distinction still found in many languages). This persistent myth that singular "they" is wrong baffles me.
Apr
5
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
@LaurenIpsum: That should be "thou", not "you". "You" is the second-person plural pronoun, which like "they" has been misused as a singular pronoun for centuries. If you're going to reject modern English, might as well be consistent.
Apr
5
comment How to avoid specifying the gender in English when the original text does not specify it?
The antiquated answer is to use whatever pronoun you want as the generic. "They" as a singular pronoun has been around far longer than the idea (which has no real basis in English language tradition) that only the masculine generic is correct, despite what self-appointed "authorities" like to pretend.
Mar
6
comment Do you have to be good at grammar to get published?
@JohnM.Landsberg: Hm. An excellent writer born in the 1800s with persistently terrible spelling makes me wonder if he had dyslexia or something similar.
Feb
26
comment Is there any standardized definition of a “Mary Sue”?
@JoeZeng: "Encompass"? "Subsume"? Anyway, listing shared traits is a natural first step when attempting to classify things; many scientific disciplines started out that way. While I can't claim any particular authority, this definition is my distillation of what seemed to motivate such lists and I could plaster it with references and citations if I had time. It doesn't, and wouldn't, exist in a vacuum.
Feb
26
comment Is there any standardized definition of a “Mary Sue”?
In my experience, the masculine forms are interchangeable and used only 1) when referring to a specific male character or 2) talking about gender-specific traits of such characters. "Mary Sue" is used similarly for female characters as well as being the gender neutral form used in contexts like this question, or just in general. It's nearly a perfect reversal of the usual masculine-as-default-term situation, which raises all kinds of fascinating questions...
Feb
21
comment Does this riddle abuse language to make it fit into verse?
@SF.: Usually I've seen the name translated as "terror" instead of "dread", but either works. On the other hand, the fourth line rings a bit hollow in comparison--it's distinctly lacking in scars compared to its brother.
Feb
19
comment What are some ingredients of really engaging non-fiction?
I don't think I've heard the aphorism said that way. The one I've heard--which is more accurate--contrasts fiction with real life. The task of writing non-fiction is indeed harder yet, as not only must it make sense, but the author is not typically at liberty to fabricate sensible things to accomplish that. Historically accurate storytelling is perhaps the most challenging kind of narrative.
Feb
13
comment What's the modern way to handle gender in tech writing?
@patrick: Sure. Just like "you" is plural, and was misappropriated first as a formal singular, later as the standard singular. Singular "they" is entirely correct and acceptable, and has been for centuries, despite the tiresome protests of poorly-educated prescriptivists.
Feb
13
comment How to have a character be nameless for the first few paragraphs of a book?
Your examples of placeholder names are beautiful and I would totally read a novel where everyone had names like those.
Dec
26
comment Switching from past to present tense?
"Even if it doesn't work, it'll be easy to salvage" is a great rule of thumb for when to try something new in any endeavor! :]