back to article 'No' does not mean 'yes'... unless you are a scriptwriter for software user interfaces

"Let me be absolutely clear about this…" As soon as you hear these words, you know the rest of the sentence will be evasive, meandering, and vague. Language is an amusing and infuriating kludge of ambiguity. Getting yourself understood within the IT industry is a particular challenge. Even everyday desktop interactions with …

  1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
    Happy

    My new favourite idiom

    "fuckity-wank-all"

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: My new favourite idiom

      But that would exclude the non-wankers and those who cannot wank at all due to bodily shortcomings. Then you are insulting the gender-less, who cannot or will not fuck anything at all. And last but not least, there are some who do not want to be classified under the "all" label because they feel special about themselves and deserve special treatment.

      /s

      Lets face it, you cannot say anything without insulting at least one other fuckity-wank-all.

      Cheers.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: My new favourite idiom

        Lets face it, you cannot say anything without insulting at least one other fuckity-wank-all.

        And even if you somehow manage, you will have insulted at least one wankity-fuck-all ;)

      2. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: My new favourite idiom

        you cannot say anything without insulting at least one other fuckity-wank-all.

        You may offend someone even if you stay silent!

  2. Fursty Ferret

    I'm actually a big fan of removing offensive and anachronistic terminology. Seems an obvious and thoughtful thing to do.

    But it needs to be done properly. We have a system that runs three instances on three independent machines - originally "master", "slave", and "backup". The slave machine ran in lockstep with the master, and the spare was there ready to take over if both fell over (but had a 30 second startup time).

    Unfortunately the manufacturer decided to replace "slave" with "spare", which caused endless confusion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Here's the next step - removing outdated names:

      E.g.

      https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2021/02/new-more-inclusive-journal-policies-ease-author-name-changes-published-papers

      While in principle it seems to be quite enlightened, any implementation is going to lead to some measure of bibliographic confusion between new, past, and new-past literature and citations thereof. I thought the old "Hanbury Brown and Twiss" vs "Hanbury-Brown and Twiss" vs "Hanbury, Brown, and Twiss", vs "Hanbury and Brown Twiss" problems were quite enough!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Here's the next step - removing outdated names:

        I had quite enough problems working out how to parse one name: William Paley Baildon. Was Paley part of the surname or not?

        IIRC, not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Here's the next step - removing outdated names:

          "Was Paley part of the surname or not?"

          I have friend whose middle name is Drake - which is his mother's family name. It is not used in the hyphenated family name sense - and his sisters have more usual middle names.

          The email system at the office used to cause confusion for many names. You had to try to decide if they were collated in first name or family name order.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here's the next step - removing outdated names:

        Everyone knows it's Brown, Hanbury, and Twiss.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Here's the next step - removing outdated names:

          "Everyone knows it's Brown, Hanbury, and Twiss."

          Only in Oxford.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Yes, "primary" and "secondary" would be much clearer terminology here. Or even "active" and "passive". This smacks of someone being told to change it by their boss, but not being told what to change it to, and not being given the guidance or context to make a correct choice. As a developer, this sort of thing is the bane of my existence.

    3. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Distinctions

      "I'm actually a big fan of removing offensive and anachronistic terminology."

      Interesting juxtaposition. "Offensive" and "anachronistic". The first is a matter of morals (or at worst, ethics). The second is entirely a matter of fashion, which has no moral, or even ethical, dimension. As far back as 1909 G. K. Chesterton proposed that to call oneself a "modernist" was no more sensible than to call oneself a "Thursdayist".

      All these attempts to purge technical vocabulary seem to be predicated on a failure to recognise that the words are of themselves neutral. The offence is to use them pejoratively on people. Machines can't get offended (except possibly HAL), but people can, and we shouldn't do it.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Distinctions

        Ah yes, but I never could get the hang of Thursdays...

        (RIP Douglas...)

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Distinctions

        Taking offence might be a matter of morals/ethics. Giving offence, not so much. You might be offended by my shirt, or might not. If I call you a cunt for dissing my shirt though, there's not really a question about whether I'm being offensive, and deliberately so. Whilst there might be a fair amount of grey space in the middle, sometimes things really are black and white clear-cut.

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: Distinctions

          If I call you a cunt for dissing my shirt though, there's not really a question about whether I'm being offensive, and deliberately so

          Only in your (and my) culture. In some cultures the word is considered mild swearing at most and calling someone a c**t would be friendly banter.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Distinctions

            You mean in Glasgow, don't you? Here on the East coast calling someone a c*nt in banter could result in a glass in the face...

            1. WanderingHaggis

              Re: Distinctions

              Growing up in Glasgow using archaic medical terminology like c**t to describe someone was not considered wise unless you could run quickly or were ready to take them on.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Distinctions

              In French for instance this term is used to say "annoyingly stupid" (usually used as an adjective). Usage is extremely common and considered only mildly offensive. Can even used as a friendly address among good friends.

              No sexual connotation at all, the original meaning has been as good as lost. While you call a male a "c**t", a females would be qualified as "c**tess", showing it has become a gender-neutral qualifier.

              1. LionelB

                Re: Distinctions

                In (Castilian) Spanish "coño"* is a pretty mild expletive, translating to something like "oh, crap". My late Basque mother-in-law, an upstanding church-going lady bandied it about like a good 'un. On the other hand, calling someone "hijo de puta" (son of a whore) is likely to earn you a smack in the teeth.

                *The old Windows console library "conio" always used to make me giggle.

                My favourite Spanish invective is "vete a tomar por un pez", a contraction of "go take it up the arse from a swordfish". Runner-up is "me cago en la leche", a contraction of "I shit in your mother's milk". Neither of these, though, gets close to the S. African (Afrikaans): "Jy is uit jou ma se gat gebore, want sy poes was te besig" - "You were born out of your mother's bum-hole, 'cause her cunt was too busy".

            3. herman Silver badge

              Re: Distinctions

              "a glass in the face" - So that is what Glasgow means...

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Distinctions

              Here in Oz we use the "cunt" like the muricans use "buddy"

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Distinctions

                To indicate you're from Texas or are using a CB radio?

                (I kid, but of course slang and other informal usage tends to change particularly fast, and in most of the US I think "buddy" has largely fallen out of favor. Though that said, Granddaughter Major still refers to me as her "best buddy" and sometimes addresses me thus.)

          2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Distinctions

            Well yes, the offensive intent is codified in the manner of communication, and the cultural and personal references that may be in play. Without getting too philosophical about it, I'm pretty sure it's easy enough to be clearly and unambiguously, deliberately offensive to another person who has the same cultural background as yourself. It is also pretty clear that people can take offence where none is meant, and also to affect offence where none is either intended, or in truth, taken.

            Culture does, of course, change over time. Whilst calling someone a cunt is considered offensive now (my spell-checker even tells me "this word is considered offensive"), it is arguably less so than it would have been, say, 50 years ago. If you go back further to the origins of the word, it was originally not considered offensive at all before some time around the 18th century.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Cultural differences

              Not long after they were married, my N. Irish Grandad called my English Granny a 'silly sod' for something harmlessly daft that she had done.

              He meant it affectionately in the Irish sense of a lump of turf, she took it in the English Methodist sense of 'sodomite'. Ructions ensued...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Cultural differences

                In the 1950s in the North Midlands of the UK - "little sod" or "little bugger" were common descriptions of mischievous kids.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Distinctions

          I don't find the grey space in the middle of your shirt offensive but it can be black and white whilst still being cut with pinking* shears.

          * That leads to a whole load of debatable terminology.

        3. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: Distinctions

          Surely "being offensive, and deliberately so" is a matter of ethics at least (those of the deliberate actor) if not indeed morals (ditto). So giving offence deliberately is indeed a matter of ethics or morals.

          However there is definite movement of folks that find things to take offence about on behalf of others (usually without asking them), and pressure (even if indirect pressure) from them seems to be a driver of the tech vocabulary "cleanup".

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Mike 137 - Re: Distinctions

        You mean we shouldn't do it to people or to machines ?

      4. rafff

        Re: Distinctions

        <q>*Chesterton proposed that to call oneself a "modernist" was no more sensible than to call oneself a "Thursdayist".</q>

        And as for post-modernist!, WTF!

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Distinctions

          A perfectly sensible term, since it refers to an aesthetic and cultural movement called "Modernism" (a proper noun), which takes its name from the concept of "modernism", which, contra Chesterton, is itself a perfectly sensible idea.

          Modernism as a concept refers to a conscious recognition of living in a world which is significantly different from its recent historical past. People do not always feel this way; most Europeans did not during the middle ages, for example. There are reams of cultural history documenting and analyzing this shift in social perceptions.

          Modernism as an aesthetic movement refers to a number of schools and artists who took it as their mission to represent, explore, and/or encourage ideas and techniques they felt were new, or at any rate a break from the past. (It's not to be confused with the artistic avant garde, though, which in effect sought to take a step further, though that's a very simplistic version of the difference.)

          Post-modernism refers to a collection of movements in reaction to Modernism.

          The Renaissance didn't involve everyone giving birth, either. Names are not bound to exactly represent their etymologies. Chesterton's observation is a sophomorism.

          A good reference on the concepts of modernism, Modernism, and particularly the period often called "High Modernism" is Eysteinsson, The Concept of Modernism. There are any number of others, of course. For Post-modernism, the Routledge book of the same title (I forget the author and can't be bothered to look it up) is pretty good. The term was popularized by various architects and by essays such as Jameson's "Post-Modernism, or the Logic of Late Capitalism", but I wouldn't go back to those sources; the term drifted too much afterward.

    4. mdubash

      'Mirror' would work.

    5. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Well

      Unfortunately the manufacturer decided to replace "slave" with "spare", which caused endless confusion.

      There's still three distinct names, so not much cause for confusion. Unless the one you identified as "backup" in the second sentence was actually called "spare" (in your third sentence), which would then cause a name clash indeed.

      We had, for a while, a similar configuration. It started as a master/slave pair (actual nomenclature, hailing from the late 1980's), in the end running on a pair of Alphaserver DS10s. One of them keeling over didn't matter much; if the master went the slave would notice and take over, and if the slave failed it would just need replacement. But as we started encountering more and more problems with service calls taking days, not hours, it was decided to add a spare which could take the place of either machine: same name and IP addresses as the one that karked, after which redundancy was back and a new (or fixed) machine would be spooled in as spare some time during the next couple of days.

      Had we had to ditch the master/slave naming it would probably have been changed to active/passive as the spare was totally a spare, not taking part in any traffic destined tor the other two.

      1. David Roberts Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Well - spare?

        Can I propose we now use:

        Monarch

        Heir

        Spare

        To avoid any confusion.

        1. DCA

          Re: Well - spare?

          I assume that there would be a series of "Spare" in storage?

          Would they all have the correct shade of case colour?

        2. Janne Smith

          Re: Well - spare?

          Wouldn't that be monarch, heir and bastard?

          1. herman Silver badge

            Re: Well - spare?

            "Wouldn't that be monarch, heir and bastard?" - Surely Monarch, heir and Harry would be more correct?

            1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

              Re: Well - spare?

              I know I'm going to regret this... the correct line of descent is from first machine to earliest spun-up secondary instance, and only going back up the tree if necessary. So the machines would currently be Elizabeth, Charles, William, George, Charlotte, Louis, in that order, and only then Harry.

            2. Stoneshop Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: Well - spare?

              Surely Monarch, heir and Harry would be more correct?

              Richard, Harry and Edna Edward Enid Edwin Osmund Egbert Edgar Edmund

              1. Franco Silver badge

                Edmund

                If Edmund is the yardstick then the correct tiers are Prince, Lord, Mr/Esquire and Captain.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Well - spare?

                Don't forget Tom.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Well - spare?

            Monarch, heir, pretender?

            Though in the US I guess we'd have to use President, VP, and SpeakerOfTheHouse.

            When I was at IBM circa 1990, we had an AFS (Andrew File System) setup for our AOS (BSD 4.3 on the PC RT) and AIX systems, and that called its secondary server "vice", if memory serves. I recall various jests about "vice squad", the wages of vice, &c.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It really is time for Master Slave to go.

      Primary and secondary have been in use for years and reflect the true relationship far better anyway.

      1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: It really is time for Master Slave to go.

        Primary and secondary have been in use for years and reflect the true relationship far better anyway.

        You are aware that we have secondary slaves in some architecture right? (IDE at least).

        In many hardware implementations the description 'master / slave' is the most accurate representation; primary and secondary do not properly capture the concept. SPI is controlled entirely by the mastering device (which is why it is called the master).

        There are, of course, multi-master systems (PCI comes to mind but it is not the only one) where we talk about targets (I bet that could get interesting).

        Anyway, this discussion was held just a couple of weeks ago.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: It really is time for Master Slave to go.

          Upvoted, because I was just yesterday trying to wrap my head around the SPI bus on a RPi Pico...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice

    graduation photo on the bookshelf.

    At first seems remarkable that they all look the same... but then same hat, same robe, similar generic photographer's background, same square-with-oval-hole standard frame, so perhaps it is more remarkable that they ever seem to look different. :-)

  4. Franco Silver badge

    "but absolutely fuckity-wank-all about the app."

    Right up there with websites and their "Contact Us" pages. Which contain links to social media pages staffed by work experience kids if they are ever looked at at all.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      "Contact us" links really should just go straight to a page that just says, "DON'T". After all, it's what they really mean, especially if it's someone like PayPal.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Or the utility supplier I am currently lumbered with which, when you ring the contact line, plays an offensive little ditty and then tells you that you'd get a much better experience if you emailled, which is just a shorthand way of saying "we don't have enough telephone operators".

        Email, of course, can only be sent to a single generic address, so even if you know to whom or to which department it needs to go, you can't send it direct and in my experience about 60% of emails go unanswered.

        Of the other 40%, they are all answered by a different person who either doesn't seem to have seen the account notes or can't be bothered to read them and we had a ridiculous situation not so long ago where I spoke to someone on the phone who said "I need photographs, please send an email" which of course - because you can only send to the generic address - was probably never seen by this person, and when I did get a reply from a different person I was told "this is too complex to deal with by email, please telephone". When I eventually got through by phone it was to yet another person and I had to explain everything for a third time, make sure they opened the case file and saw the photographs, and... well, I'm bored recounting it now but suffice to say the whole thing from start to finish took about six months and one account closure to sort out (we did have two accounts with this supplier).

        Our previous supplier was much more simple. Couple of telephone numbers to ring, operator answers with all details to hand and essentially won't put the phone down until the thing is sorted.

        I know what you are thinking - why did we swap?

        We didn't. Our previous operator was struggling to maintain that level of service so "outsourced" their customer services to a Which? recommended supplier. We are still nominally a customer of our original supplier, but cannot deal with them directly. Time to look elsewhere.

        M.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I have to say, I was astonished when I switched to Consumer Cellular ("phones for olds"), and their contact information -- which they splash across pretty much every page of their website -- was correct, useful, and provoked an almost immediate response. Of course customer service is their big selling point.

      Compare that with, oh, Computershare; I used their email contact form over a week ago and haven't heard a peep. They say to expect a response in 5 business days, which is still an absurdly long time for a financial firm.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "They say to expect a response in 5 business days, which is still an absurdly long time for a financial firm."

        Wickes (UK DIY) delivered some timber which included a damaged piece. Rang the help line - who said the local store would contact me within 48 hours. Nothing happened so I rang again. They said it would now be escalated getting a call from the local store within 8 hours.. Also if that didn't happen then the next time they would escalate it to the "reply in 1 hour" level.

        Nothing after 8 hours - and I saw no point wasting further time with escalations. They are no longer my supplier.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          I've had no problems with Wickes over the years I've been using them, but we ordered some internal doors from them late last year. Three were Wickes own brand and had to be delivered from the central warehouse via the local store (they are wide - accessible - doors and they don't stock that size at any local store) while the other was "direct from the manufacturer within 10 days".

          The stuff via the store arrived no problem at all, but when after a fortnight we'd heard nothing about the other doors I rang, it proved impossible to get through to anyone on the phoneline. The "press 1 for this, press 2 for that" system just went round in circles and mostly I ended up at the same recorded message. I went into the store but they couldn't do anything - they couldn't even access the order details for the from-the-manufacturer doors on their systems; they could only see the other part of the order.

          After a lot more telephoning, emailing and suchlike we eventually ascertained that there were problems at the manufacturer and cancelled the order - we'll re-order later perhaps - but why they or Wicks couldn't have got in touch to say "sorry, there's been a problem at the factory" I'll never know.

          The lesson is the same as I've learned with Amazon (in particular) but also other suppliers; if the thing you want is supplied by and from a third party, move on and get it elsewhere. If it's in stock in an Amazon/Wickes/Screwfix warehouse, you stand a much greater chance of getting it.

          Even Screwfix is a bit of a pain in this regard. It used to be that stuff shown on the website that wasn't in stock locally would be there next day. Now, although the thing says "24 to 48 hours" what it actually means is "48 hours if you're lucky".

          M.

  5. BenM 29
    Coat

    Lewis Carroll would like a word...

    >>These types probably spell "today" as "to-day"

    I was recently reading Alice (either, both?) and noticed that the abbreviation for "cannot", in modern idiom rendered as "can't", is rendered "ca'n't" throughout. This is, of course, correct apostrophe use, indicating each omitted letter, but IMHO sadly a departed form from modern English.

    As a slight aside, the old form makes the book actually quite hard to read - brain expects the pattern can't, gets ca'n't and has to decode it as letters rather than a token.

    /mine's the one with "The Annottated Alice 150th Aniversay Edition" in the pocket

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Lewis Carroll would like a word...

      This is, of course, correct apostrophe use...

      That one may be arguable. When I was taught this (too many decades ago) it was that the apostrophe replaced one or more removed letters. So either can't or ca'n't could be correct, depending on whether the first or second n was the removed one in addition to the o.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: can't or ca'n't

        surely: cannot --> can[no]t --> can''t :-)

        1. BenM 29
          Happy

          Re: can't or ca'n't

          Apparently not....

          cannot --> ca[n]n[o]t --> ca'n't ;-)

          Personally I like the idea of multiple apostrophes indicating every missing letter but each to their own :-)

          1. Mage Silver badge

            Re: can't or ca'n't

            forecastle

            Fo'c's'le

            Some people argue about the pronunciation. But it's been abbreviated so long it's pronounced folk'sill

            1. Jan 0 Silver badge

              Re: can't or ca'n't

              So "block and take all" (how seafarers say it), should have become block and take'l, but instead has become block and tackle (how landlubbers say it), Weird and inconsistent or what?

            2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
              Go

              Re: can't or ca'n't

              I think the abbreviated fo'c'sle is an attempt to have the orthography match a long-standing pronunciation, not the other way around. Consider the word "waistcoat" which was pronounced "weskit" for hundreds of years, until reading became widespread. Also "forehead". It's properly pronounced forrid, otherwise the rhyme of the little girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead simply does not work. Unless the last line is "when she was bad, she was whore-head". That ca'n't be right, can it.

      2. Martin Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Lewis Carroll would like a word...

        But Alice also uses sha'n't and that is unequivocally apostrophetically correct.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lewis Carroll would like a word...

        A series of books written in the 1930s surprised me by just using "cant". Couldn't decide if it was the author or the typesetter adopting that variant. Punctuation marks must have been fiddly in manual typesetting.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Lewis Carroll would like a word...

      When I was (very) young the device in the kitchen that kept food cold (but not very cold) was the 'fridge', where both marks are apostrophes rather than single quotes, because both prefix and suffix of refrigerator had been elided. I presume the d was added to prevent it being pronounced fry-j.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: Lewis Carroll would like a word...

        I thought it came from a shortening (and mis-spelling) of 'Frigidaire' which is the name of a famous manufacturer? (The 'd' being added to match the French pronunciation by English people who didn't know it was French.)

        1. Norman Nescio

          Re: Lewis Carroll would like a word...

          I suspect not. I believe it comes from a shortening of the word refrigerator (note the lack of a 'd') which has a Latin root in the word frigus, meaning chill,coldness. Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation gives the 'g' a 'dj' sound, which leads to it being spelled in English with a 'd' to distinguish it from words with a hard 'g' in the middle, like magnet, regulate, cigar, bogie, sugar.

          Classical Latin pronunciation would be frig, to rhyme with brig.

          1. anonymousI

            Re: Lewis Carroll would like a word...

            Very true - but we can't use "frig" since it's regarded as a rude word in many places.

    3. Irony Deficient Bronze badge

      the art of contraction

      I was recently reading Alice (either, both?) and noticed that the abbreviation for “cannot”, in modern idiom rendered as “can’t”, is rendered “ca’n’t” throughout. […] As a slight aside, the old form makes the book actually quite hard to read

      My current read is Bayard Taylor’s 1870 metre-preserving translation of Goethe’s Faust, and it often (but not always) preserves the spaces in its two-word contractions, e.g. «’T was», “You ’ll”, “I ’ve”, “there ’s” rather than «’Twas», “You’ll”, “I’ve”, “there’s”. I’m inclined to think that that was due more to the typesetting of different hands than to Taylor’s preference, one way or the other.

  6. Mike 137 Silver badge

    when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

    They actually mean different things. "Fewer" applies only to number (counting things) but "less" applies more generally to reductions or comparisons of many alternative kinds. Consequently it is (should be) clear that "less" is the more general and "fewer" the more specific and narrowly applicable term. Consequently using "fewer" outside the numerical context is simply incorrect.

    In a similar vein, "impact" is now almost universally used in public rhetoric to indicate any effect of anything on anything else. I got so pissed off by this recently that I spent half an hour with a thesaurus, in which time I identified over 60 specific verbs that have been generally supplanted by "to impact" or "to have an impact on". Each of these specific verbs conveys more information in its appropriate context about the nature (and even in some cases the consequences) of the effect than the general term "impact."

    If regret for loss of clarity and precision in communication is pedantry, long live pedantry.

    1. gerdesj Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

      Less clarity is clearly caused by having fewer clarits available.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

        If you really want to wind up pedants, use fewer where it really should be less.

        As in, "I couldn't care fewer about Grammar Nazis".

        1. A. Coatsworth
          Coat

          Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

          I think you mean "I could care fewer about Grammar Nazis"

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

            "England and America are two countries divided by a common language"

            George Bernad Shaw (attrib)

            This is a great example of how the British and American versions of this idiom differ. Being as I am, British, the American version is obviously wrong. I'm sure any cross-pondians will take the opposite stance. QED.

            1. A. Coatsworth

              Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

              That is Interesting. For me as a non-native speaker (who learned American English) the phrase "I could care less" sounds hopelessly wrong, that is why it seemed funny to make the "correction" in the previous message.

              I didn't really know there was a British vs American debate about it.

              1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

                Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

                There are British English contradictory expressions along similar lines to "I could care less". One that always puzzled me was "I should co-co", which is supposed to rhyme with "I should say so" but is understood to mean the opposite: "I should say not".

                1. Santa from Exeter

                  Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

                  @dabbsy

                  Sorry mate, you've got that arse about face.

                  Dahn Lahndahn 'I should bleedin' well cocoa' Means I should Jolly well say so, and is used in the affirmative, rather than the negative.

            2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

              By and large, I could care fewer (*snert*), but I do so enjoy taking the piss out the English when they get their pants in a wad over Americans having e.g. removed a bunch of superfluous vowels from various words.

              1. quxinot Silver badge

                Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

                The English have always added extra vowels to words. They were stolen from the Welsh in the 1400's. Honest! Look at a Welsh sign! Sixty consonants, no vowels. Vowels are displayed by the English as a sign of dominance!

                (Maybe not, but it's always made sense to me.)

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

                  'course the flaw in your argument is that we held on to two vowels that the English heathen didn't realise were vowels, despite using them as such. In Welsh, therefore, the place called Ynysybwl actually has four vowels in its name.

                  M.

            3. Martin Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

              As we're talking about pedantry, I can't resist pointing out that you've misspelled "Bernard"...

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

                Maybe he need to take a trip to Barnard Castle?

              2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

                Ah yes, Muphry's Law* in action.

                *No, not Murphy's Law.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

        "Less clarity is clearly caused by having fewer clarits available."

        Or by drinking more clarets.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

      Is 18 less or fewer than 24? Is a dozen and a half less or fewer then two dozen?

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

        Simple.

        18 eggs is fewer eggs than 24 eggs (as counted objects). 10 is less than 24 (as abstract numbers).

        Similarly a dozen and a half turkeys is fewer turkeys than two dozen turkeys, but (etc.)

        Alternatively, half a mile is less than a mile (not fewer) but to travel five miles is to travel fewer miles than to travel 10 miles.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

          "half a mile is less than a mile (not fewer)"

          It's also 4 furlongs fewer than 8 furlongs.

          In fact Fowler says "Less can be idiomatically used with plural nouns in certain circumstances, esp. distances"

        2. ThatOne Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

          "Lesser man" vs. "fewer men"...

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

      "Fewer" applies only to number (counting things) but "less" applies more generally to reductions or comparisons of many alternative kinds.

      Why are there not equivalent forms for "more" ?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

        I suppose the pedant would prefer "bigger" or "larger" as the opposite to "less".

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

          Greater, probably, if they're using something abstract. Of course, if we analyze this too much we'll find out that "more" works just fine for both situations where the number increases and that "less" could serve for both where it decreases if we surpressed our doesn't-look-right instinct for a month or two.

        2. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

          En-biggen.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

            Embiggen

      2. Norman Nescio

        Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

        There are, but not in colloquial British English.

        Scandinavian (roughly*) has two words meaning more: mere(non-countable) and flere(countable). I have no idea why the word meaning 'countably more' didn't get incorporated into English via the Vikings.

        And Scandinavian (roughly*) does have two words corresponding to less - mindre and fewer - færre.

        *details differ between Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish. Don't know about Faeroese.

    4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

      I attribute the popularity of "impact" largely to people not knowing whether they should use "effect" or "affect", and going for something else entirely in order to avoid the risk of making themselves look stupid.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

        So you're saying the impact of their failure affects the intended effect?

        1. Norman Nescio

          Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

          I affirm the affecting effect 'impact' has on my affect. It discombobulates me so much, I become mensurately bative in my miseration. I have to work hard on being plaisant.

          (With apologies to Jack Winter)

      2. Norman Nescio

        Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

        I attribute the popularity of "impact" largely to people not knowing whether they should use "effect" or "affect", and going for something else entirely in order to avoid the risk of making themselves look stupid.

        And thereby failing entirely: at least with effect and affect you have a 50% chance of getting it right, with impact you have a 100% chance of looking stupid.

        1. anonymousI

          Re: when to use the word "fewer" instead of the word "less"

          It appears the increased usage of "impact" may have a lot to do with tabloid-headline writers.

          In which case your point about looking stupid seems quite apt...

  7. Jon 88

    Little Red Hen

    Dabbsy, I'm a programmer / software developer / engineer (what do those words even mean, really, other than making me sound impressive?) from the American midwest. Your column is generally my favorite one from the Register, and today's showed me that you are a master with words. I hate user interfaces because its really hard to pretend to be a non-computer-literate and also hard to admit how bad my designs are. I spent 800 hours last year building my personal program (a Dungeons and Dragons assistant) and my users were consistently unhelpful saying "come back when its useful". To sum it up, your programs live or die by your user interfaces, and your users are completely unhelpful in building it. Perhaps you know the story of the Little Red Hen? Cheers

  8. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Trollface

    Diarrhee of a Wimpy Kid

    I don't know what the hell the gender nonspecific person in the top icon had been eating, but it must be powerful stuff as the result has blown his head off...!

    That said he's orange anyway, so probably washed down with a Tango.

    1. Ellipsis

      Re: Diarrhee of a Wimpy Kid

      Yes: my first thought was that that person would be rather less concerned about the diarrhoea than about the catastrophic neck injury…

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Diarrhee of a Wimpy Kid

      Gingerism?

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Diarrhee of a Wimpy Kid

      That would be a Type 6 or 7 in the Bristol Stool Chart...

      https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/mar/14/going-through-the-motions-the-rise-and-rise-of-stool-gazing

      1. Boufin

        Re: Diarrhee of a Wimpy Kid

        I'm veggie, and by that scale I am not normal!

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Diarrhee of a Wimpy Kid

          Years ago, I read somewhere that said "cow-pat" like is good. So, if your efforts results in something that looks like a cow-pat, then all the better. Do you go "moo" when you go?

          Joking aside, I think whatever is "normal" for you is what is more important - and a (permanent?) change in bowel habit is the one to watch out for/time to consult a professional.

          1. Boufin

            Re: Diarrhee of a Wimpy Kid

            Gave you a thumbs up, but in the context of this thread I'm not so sure that's a good idea!

  9. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Pedantry

    My counter-argument was that those people who do know the difference notice the error. Pedants get annoyed; literate readers assume you are lazy. By using inappropriate terms or words used incorrectly, you alienate these people and lose them as readers. But by using the right words, everyone is content and you keep all your readers. Therefore making the effort to get it right is, by definition, more inclusive.

    This. One hundred percent this.

    English has a million words to choose from. Let's use the right ones, please, and keep the precision of the language.

    1. gerdesj Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Pedantry

      "This" what? *twitch*

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Pedantry

      Let's use the right ones, please, and keep the precision of the language.

      Shouldn't that be "the correct ones"?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Pedantry

        It depends on whether you're making your selection on political grounds.

      2. Ozumo

        Re: Pedantry

        Coming from a medical (operating theatre) background, I'm very twitchy about using "right" when the meaning is "correct".

        "We're amputating the left leg, yes?"

        "Right"

        "If you say so"

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Pedantry

          As in with driving instructions. "I turn left here". "Right".

          1. Martin Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Pedantry

            Or driving on the right side of the road in the UK, which is the left side. If you're on the right side, you're on the wrong side.

  10. gerdesj Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    French vocab

    Ta for the new French words. I have no idea how I've managed to get through an entire O level in French without learning some of the essentials relating to digestive distress. Mind you, I did successfully fail it with a grade D.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: French vocab

      Yes.

      ballonnements

      The imagery is delightful.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: French vocab

      Although O level German took every opportunity to use Durchfall

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: French vocab

        Heh. Just watched a video of a French bloke in the USA stripping an engine. He referred to a Woodruff key all the way through as a dandruff key...

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: French vocab

          How *is* it pronounced? I've only seen it written, so didn't know it has a sound different from the letters.

      2. gerdesj Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: French vocab

        I failed German too, despite actually living in West Germany for a few years. Three hundred odd years back my entire family spoke it fluently, what with being actual Germans.

        1. Norman Nescio

          Re: French vocab

          <pedant>

          Since Germany has only existed since the unification in 1871*, three hundred-odd years ago they would have been Saxons, Bohemians, Silesians, Prussians, Bavarians, ...). They would probably have spoken a German dialect, though.

          </pedant>

          *Wikipedia says: Prior to 1803, German-speaking Central Europe included more than 300 political entities, most of which were part of the Holy Roman Empire or the extensive Habsburg hereditary dominions.

  11. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Happy

    SCOTH

    That Whisky label looks like it was drawn by Hergé.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: looks as it was drawn by Hergé

      As it should

  12. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Yes/No/Cancel

    This has been my bugbear long before the mere User Interface was elevated to User Experience. Yes and No are opposites, they leave no room for a third option and so confusion is inevitable.

    I blame Microsoft for the fact that "No" and "Cancel" have been synonymous in responses to questions such as "Do you like the Mash Report/Piers Morgan?".

    On the other hand, the averagely-vacuous "About" box is almost encyclopedic in its content compared with today's typical SPA Home Page - a full-width graphic of nothing in particular, some stock photographs, an e-mall link and a few random words from the Little Book of Trite adorned with a putrid garland of social media logos. I could stand a great deal fewer of that.

    1. Hero Protagonist
      Trollface

      Re: Yes/No/Cancel

      Shirley you mean “a great deal fewer of *those*”

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Warm Braw - Re: Yes/No/Cancel

      Courtesy of the same Microsoft that gave us the possibility to check Allow and Deny boxes at same time refering us to an intense intellectual/philosophical debate on the ensuing result of both options being selected.

    3. Ellipsis

      Re: Yes/No/Cancel

      Interesting perception. To me, it’s always been abundantly clear that ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ are definitive answers to the question posed, while ‘Cancel’ means ‘I don’t want to have to answer either way right now; take me back to where I was before’.

      Of course that isn’t appropriate for all circumstances, and inevitably there are cases where the standard dialog box gets misused with a question like ‘Do you want to do A or B?’ or something entirely unanswerable by the options presented.

      The new policy of avoiding ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in favour of (for instance) ‘Save’ and ‘Don’t save’ to make the outcome clearer to those who don’t read the question (and are thus susceptible to getting caught out by inconsistencies like ‘Are you sure you want to exit without saving?’ vs. ‘Do you want to save before exiting?’) is better, though.

      Better still would be to ban modal dialogs outright, and force designers to come up with a UI that doesn’t need them to interrupt you to ask stupid questions in the first place…

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Yes/No/Cancel

        "Better still would be to ban modal dialogs outright, and force designers to come up with a UI that doesn’t need them to interrupt you to ask stupid questions in the first place…"

        I've used interfaces like that. They are horrible. Modality is useful if an action requires several things to be specified at once. Some parts of reality are like that, so you can't just live/design in denial about it. By entering a modal dialog you ensure that only one such complicated action is in-flight in the user's head at any given time. That's usually good to encourage. UIs that have loads of modeless toolbars or docked thingummies about the place are the alternative. Sometimes that works. Usually you end up with an interface like Gimp or Blender, where the novice user runs screaming from the room.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Yes/No/Cancel

        "Better still would be to ban modal dialogs outright, and force designers to come up with a UI that doesn’t need them to interrupt you to ask stupid questions in the first place…"

        Please no. What you get when you do that too much is a bunch of important questions or information hidden away. Modals are really useful in the case of warnings. I was using a new program recently and ran the export function. Fortunately, I got a modal informing me that, unless the program was mistaken, I was about to export a project file which contained several subregions that hadn't been attached anywhere, so basically I'd get a mostly blank result. Did I really want that? If modals were forbidden, where would that information show up? Probably a tiny button on the toolbar next to all the other tiny buttons saying something about warnings. Given that the export phase of this could take an hour and that testing the result is long and I might skip it, I'm quite glad it warned me before I exported. You might point out that, now I know about this, I won't do it again and I don't need the warning, but I kept it turned on because I might do that again by mistake and it always helps to get told about it.

        1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
          Devil

          Modals

          One does run the risk of an Alderson Loop though.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Modals

            Of course, but that's just failing to do the UI work. If they left out the save button, I'd have a similar problem. Bugs will break stuff until they're fixed. Meanwhile, it's not hard to test modals to make sure that's not been missed.

  13. Dr_N Silver badge

    Diarrhée, Douleurs Abdominales, Ballonnements

    Caught orange-handed eating too much foie gras. Vegan? Yeah right, Mr Dabbs.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Diarrhée, Douleurs Abdominales, Ballonnements

      It's not le foie gras, it's too much of le Sauternes

  14. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    less versus fewer

    There are ever fewer people who prefer fewer but those that prefer less are lesser.

  15. Bertieboy

    Grumpy old pedant says

    And don't get me going about the misuse of "due to" and "owing to" - seems only the UK government website gets it right these days! (surprisingly)

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Grumpy old pedant says

      There may be tax owing to HMRC, but if they've screwed up the calculation as usual it may not be due to them.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Grumpy old pedant says

        The procedure you described may well apply everywhere else, but since it's HMRC you are taking about, anything HMRC says is owed to them by you is most certainly due to them. Any discrepancies MAY be paid back to you after your payment to them is received.

  16. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "uncontentious alternatives such as blocklist and allow list."

    I'm glad they're allowing lists but what are the blocks they're listing made of?

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      > I'm glad they're allowing lists but what are the blocks they're listing made of?

      Lists have heads and tails. So the head of a blocklist is a blockhead. Not sure that's going to be allowed. ;-)

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        So the head of a blocklist is a blockhead.

        And blockheads start off blockchains?

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Dark mode and Light mode interfaces"

    This usually means "completely illegible" mode and "almost illegible" mode as those offering such choices seem to separate background and foreground by about two bits' worth of brightness.

  18. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    What about the plague of icons where lack of vocabulary isn't the problem?

    if a fundamental lack of vocabulary is the problem, use icons instead

    These days, nearly every piece of equipment you buy has the following documents in its cardboard box :

    - a card exhorting you to register for a guarantee that is almost certainly an attempt to limit your basic legal rights

    - a thick booklet with pointless health and safety warnings in every language from Afrikaans to Welsh

    - a flimsy leaflet that explains how to assemble and operate the equipment using only pictograms

    Why the incomprehensible pictograms? They clearly have translation resources available because they used them for elf'n'safety warnings (where they probably feared incurring legal liability). The use of words written on a page is one of the great achievements of human civilization. The reason Cro-Magnon man never developed a linear accelerator is mostly because he could only draw pictures on the wall.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: What about the plague of icons where lack of vocabulary isn't the problem?

      Ah. Note also how these pictograms (i.e. sketchy line drawings) always fail to show you the bit that is complicated/ambiguous and needs to be illustrated.

    2. Falmari Silver badge
      Joke

      A picture is worth a thousand words

      "The use of words written on a page is one of the great achievements of human civilization."

      But a picture is worth a thousand words. ;)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A picture is worth a thousand words

        "But a picture is worth a thousand words."

        Tell that to the people who erected my new shed last week. The assembly picture could be seen as possibly ambiguous - after they had misused a soffit as an unnecessary felt bargeboard. The text paragraph for that component (f) went into detail to specify "soffit", "underside of roof", and "fills the gap".

        The person who came later correct it wanted to use a saw to reduce its length - to compensate for another assembly error in the orientation of a rectangular section corner trim lath.

  19. Terry 6 Silver badge

    [YES] —> [YES]

    [NO] —> [NO BUT YOU WILL ASK ME AGAIN LATER REPEATEDLY UNTIL I CLICK YES]

    [CANCEL] —> [YOU WILL DO IT ANYWAY WHEN I'M NOT LOOKING]

    This already seems outdated.

    There are also those choices etc. pages with a selection box or slide button that doesn't actually specify whether selecting/moving it to the right/left turns the setting on or off, having a label but neither a question nor yes/no markers.

    It'll say something like "Use the settings below to choose your settings"

    With a list of setting names like "Privacy" etc. and a choice that's unlabelled. Does selecting this box disable or enable something that might or might not already be happening ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even when the slide button changes colour between red and green - it isn't always clear if green means you are safe - or you have given permission. Ditto Red - are you unsafe - or refusing permission.

      If you are colour blind....

  20. vtcodger Silver badge

    "Pedants get annoyed; literate readers assume you are lazy."

    I don't know about anyone else, but I usually assume that writers who use less instead of fewer are coming to English as a second or third language and are mentally translating from some dialect that has many too many or many too few vowels, way too many accent marks, and possibly distinguishes between inclusive and exclusive or. In general I'm surprised at how well they do compared to my pitiful attempts at German, Spanish and Japanese.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      My experience is generally the opposite of this. Those who abuse the English language are generally those for whom it is their first language. Abominations like "should of", "take are country back", etc. arise from the organic learning of spoken language, without reference to the written form. This generally happens when people learn a languagfe as a child, not as a result of formalised teaching, which tends to teach written and spoken language together. Thus you find that non-native English speakers who are fluent, tend to speak the language with much greater precision than native English speakers, and, more subtly, tend to speak and write the same form of language. For an example of this, try listening to people you know having a conversation, and compare it to their written language. It will likely be peppered with "syntactic sugar", such as the "quotative like", "ummms" and "aahs", and all sorts of syntactical errors which you wouldn't see written in an email, for example.

      Part of this also comes from the fact that when learning a second language, you have to also learn about such things as grammar, syntax, tenses, etc., so speakers of more than one language tend to understand the structure of language better. When you become aware of this, you can often spot things from the speaker's native language that give them away. For example, a number of Eastern European languages don't tend to use definite articles; rather than "the cat sat on the mat", they might say "cat sat on mat". Some languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, don't really have past tenses in the same way as English, so when talking about something that happened in the past, they might talk in the present tense, and imply the timescale through context instead. Rather than "the cat sat on the mat", they might say "it was the cat sits on the mat" or something that to our ear sounds equally syntactically garbled.

      Anyway, whether someone speaking English as a second language uses "less" and "fewer" correctly would probably have more to do with whether their native language has the concepts of countable and non-countable comparisons, and whether the words for each actually differ. Note also, that if we think about the opposite of "less/fewer", which is "more/greater", we can see that the battle is already lost there, and we just say "more". A pedant might pick you up if you say "3 oranges is less than 5" but I bet you they even notice if you say "5 is more than 3".

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        It will likely be peppered with "syntactic sugar", such as the "quotative like", "ummms" and "aahs", and all sorts of syntactical errors which you wouldn't see written in an email, for example.

        Sugar is too kind a word.

        I've certainly seen one example of the intrusive "like" (fortunately on the decline, not so fortunately being replaced with the millennial "so) in a query on a technical forum. The query was about excessive memory use. I was tempted to suggest the memory was filling up with superfluous likes but I doubt he'd have understood.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Have a like

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            like yeah innit

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ""3 oranges is less than 5""

        In other languages the verb conjugations may have one form for each tense - irrespective of the (pro)noun. Swedish simplified quite a lot in the 20th century - but still retained two "genders" for the (in)definite article, nouns, and adjectives. There is probably a gender rule - but a glass and an ice cream are different genders. The latter is memorable because the two words in Swedish sound very similar.

        A children's educational TV series was called "Fem myror är fler än fyra elefanter" - Five midges is/are more than four elephants.

  21. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "File" is one word that is definitely anachronistic now. Back in the days of punched cards it was meaningful to speak of a file of cards, file in the sense of objects lined up in a row (cf rank and file).

    In terms of representing physical objects used in offices a file is usually a folder containing a number of documents. "Document" would be a better term than "file" as used in computing today. XML terminology does refer to documents but they're usually implemented as files.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Is "document" more suitable for an image? A sound sample? A set of abstract data points? An executable? We obviously need some idiom for "contiguous block of bits in a storage device", but a correct, neutral and suitably broad one, other than file, is not immediately apparent.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Document can apply to an image. A physical file of documents may well contain maps, photographs etc.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          My other points stand though. I don't think anyone would refer to a compiled program as a document.

          We need a simple name for a concept that is complex and abstracted from the user. "File" is as good as any other, especially since it is nomenclature that has been established. Changing it now is only going to confuse people. "File" is a metaphor for a bunch of sequential bytes that are on a storage device, it is in the nature of metaphors that they do not accurately reflect the nature of a thing, but serve as a simplification that is conceptually easier to deal with.

          I see a parallel here between this and how people refer to subatomic particles. An electron can be referred to as either a wave or a particle - it has properties that are akin to both, but it is in fact neither. It is useful, on a conceptual level, to refer to it as one or the other, even though any physicist will know it is a convenience and nothing more. Arguing about whether it is better to call it a wave, or call it a particle, is utterly moot. The electron doesn't care. It also doesn't care that we assign the name "spin" to one of its properties that has absolutely nothing to do with spinning. It definitely has the property we call "spin", otherwise every atom in the universe (other than free neutral hydrogen) would be violating the Pauli Exclusion Principle.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            It's a classic language problem. As humans, we need to stick labels on things. I mean, why do subatomic particles have "colour" or "spin" or "up" or "down" or "flavour" or "charm"? These things have no intrinsic meaning when attached to quarks (or whatever) but they do convey information.

            There has been a lot of research done into acquisition of language and I studied a (very small amount of) it at university many, many years ago in the context of bilingualism. Most of the world is bi, tri- or even more-lingual, but monolingual / monoglot people like, oh, I dunno, the vast majority of the UK English-speaking population don't seem to understand that it is they who are unusual.

            A particular revealing bit of research I will never forget reading about was carried out in a collaboration between universities in Canada and Wales, both of which have bilingual populations within a larger monolingual culture. They showed people pictures of things - the moon, a cow, a horse, that sort of thing - and asked for example "could I call this [the cow] 'horse'?"

            The bilinguals who of course already have two or three different words for the same thing generally said "yes" - the label you give to something doesn't alter what it is. The monolinguals had reactions along the lines of "no, of course you can't call a cow 'horse', it's a cow!"

            Does it really matter what we call a "sequence of bytes on a storage device"? So long as we all agree to link a specific label to a specific entity, we can call it whatever the heck we like. "File" is as good as anything.

            M.

  22. not.known@this.address Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Listening to '1984' on audiobook

    Newspeak is becoming a reality. And with the latest attempt to add misogyny as a Hate Crime to be punished by law, we move another step closer to Thoughtcrime too. And if the Scottish Parliament make good their intention to make hate speech illegal *in your own home*, will they be able to demand Alexa, Ciri, Cortana and any other current or future digital "assistant" be used to spy on their inmates... sorry, "citizens"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Listening to '1984' on audiobook

      The sooner the Scots are independent the better.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Listening to '1984' on audiobook

      If it is worth making illegal, I don't see why a home should grant sanctuary like some church in the middle ages.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Listening to '1984' on audiobook

        Gardeners be warned! Picking wild flowers is illegal. Law coming to your home and garden, Real Soon Now!

        Sex in public is illegal. Should that be illegal in the home too?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Listening to '1984' on audiobook

          "Sex in public is illegal."

          Not as much as you might think. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 - it is a more serious offence for an erect penis to be visible. So if you hide it in something.... now you see it - now you don't.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Listening to '1984' on audiobook

            So, they'd charge me with 5 offenses for last night?

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Listening to '1984' on audiobook

          If you manage to have sex in public whilst in your own home ... well done, but I think you will find it is still illegal.

          Conversely, for the wild flowers case I think you will be able to argue that they aren't wild (by definition) if they arein your garden.

          Better examples mighthave been things like theft and violence, which are definitely illegal in the home, even if it is your wife or children.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Listening to '1984' on audiobook

            Better examples mighthave been things like theft and violence, which are definitely illegal in the home, even if it is your wife or children.

            Ask Stephen Fry about that one, eh? He went to gaol for stealing from his parent (forging cheques in his father's name).

  23. Martin-R

    Oh for yes/no/cancel

    My least favourite remote access tool has a helpful popup with words to the effect of "this will disconnect your session" followed by an OK button and only an OK button. No it's not OK, it's far too easy to click the button that ends the session accidentally, give me a cancel button!

    I also love applications where closing a record with unsaved changes usually says "do you wish to save your changes first?" and at other points says "this will discard your changes, do you wish to continue?" - but at least there are yes and no options in both!

    1. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Oh for yes/no/cancel

      A machine I use displays a message if you try to cancel the current operation. The message reads:

      "You are about to cancel the current job. Do you wish to continue? [Cancel] [Continue]"

      Pressing "Cancel" cancels the cancellation request and continues the job, while pressing "Continue" continues cancelling the job.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Oh for yes/no/cancel

        That's masterly wicked! Evil Mastermind™ level stuff!...

  24. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Two biggest GUI hates?

    Check boxes that are unlabelled slide switches or flat buttons. For extra hate make them monochrome outlines with only O position to indicate state. also Buttons or labels as check boxes that don't label CURRENT state but state if tapped/clicked.

    Modal windows with NO back, OK, Cancel or X, apparently you tap or click on the background. Who hired the idiots that decided on this.

    For a while I thought Win 10 (binary for two?) was the worst since Windows 2.0 on Hercules or Hires CGA (basically also only 1 bit but less dots). But Android seems worse.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Two biggest GUI hates?

      Modal windows with NO back, OK, Cancel or X, apparently you tap or click on the background. Who hired the idiots that decided on this.

      You find this most commonly in web pages (Bootstrap, I'm looking at you), but it seems to have crept its way into apps that are pretending to be web pages (or are just wrappers around them). I find hitting Esc also usually dismisses the pop-up, which more often than not is something you didn't even care about. Sometimes more drastic measures are required (changing display properties from the browser debug window) when it's a pop-up trying to get you to agree to something you don't want to ("I see you're using an ad blocker, please turn it off so we can spew tripe at you" seems to be the usage of the day).

  25. David Roberts Silver badge
    Trollface

    And another thing - well some?

    Cure for the "roots of your pubes" problem can be obtained from citizens of Brazil.

    Some advances in language have unexpected results.

    I'm pretty sure that the parents of Gay Search didn't anticipate that nominative determinism would force her to seek a same sex companion

    I can recall when gay meant happy, laughing, cheerful person.

    [May still do, of course....]

    As opposed to being a replacement for more demeaning terminology.

    Like....ummmm....

    What noise does a dog make?

    Woof!

    Ta.

  26. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    "Likeness of his creator"

    > the rest of the sentence will be evasive, meandering, and vague

    To resume, "Human"...

  27. DCA

    Politically correct menus

    Could not be called Personus.

    Persimus?

    And perhaps drop-down menus will be replaced by raise-up persimus.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Politically correct menus

      Of course, around here the pronunciation of "menu" in English is exactly the same as the Welsh word "menyw" which means... "woman" or "lady".

      M.

  28. ecofeco Silver badge

    This is how languages die

    If you have ever wondered how langues die and become unreadable to the masses, this is how.

    They don't evolve, they de-evolve.

    The trend of the last 20 years to use 20 words when one will do, has not helped. And the portmanteaus are no longer funny. Ceaseless nattering, all of it.

    AND DO NOT GET ME STARTED INTERFACE DESIGNERS!

  29. Blackjack Silver badge

    PC Source Tribe?

    How do you translate PC Master Race to the new new new more polite and less racist language?

  30. Klimt's Beast Would

    Depeche Mode...

    'Twin',

    'Tweedle Dee' & 'Tweedle Dum'?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tweedledum_and_Tweedledee

  31. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    [NO] —> [NO BUT YOU WILL ASK ME AGAIN LATER REPEATEDLY UNTIL I CLICK YES]

    Using Internet Explorer, click the bookmark and "This page works better in Edge" and so the page opens in Edge.

    NO IT FUCKING DOESN'T. Edge doesn't do ActiveX and the page I NEED to open USES ACTIVEX. I don't have a choice, the site owners should update it but haven't and I NEED to use that site (It's work related, ok?)

    Yes, thanks, I did find the temporary workaround (temporary because it WILL become the only option in the future - Here's hoping the the relatively large company behind said ActiveX based site gets their arse into gear before the only option to access their site fails completely! - On my search for a "fix" I found a thread in their support forums from 3 years ago telling them some browsers don't do ActiveX and would they be fixing it soon. There were no replies.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: [NO] —> [NO BUT YOU WILL ASK ME AGAIN LATER REPEATEDLY UNTIL I CLICK YES]

      Why would you not name and shame a company still using activex in 2021?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The BBC web site "Terms of Use" for readers' text or pictures submitted to them is a paragon of clarity. They freely state that you are giving up all rights - and they can sell its usage to anyone else.

    1. TheProf Silver badge

      You can't say you weren't warned. Well as long as you took the trouble to hunt down the T&C page before you submitted that once-in-a-lifetime picture of a sunset.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      My own personal Terms of Service are very similar and apply to all forms of media which are broadcast into my house. This includes the right to change, edit or otherwise re-encode[1] any data passing through the air or directed at my properly by cable or fibre communications. My Ts&Cs are on public display in a disused toilet in a darkened basement. Caution. Large spotted cats may be roaming down there.

      Anyone not agreeing to my Ts&Cs ar free to not broadcast their content into my house.

      [1] this may be, but is not limited to, all forms of encryption.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, I have a similar set of T&Cs which apply to anybody who attempts to communicate with me or mentions my name.

        I thought there would have been more push back about the "you accept satan as your dark lord and master" clause, but I haven't had a single person even ask about it.

        OTOH, to be fair, asking me about it would constitute agreeing to the terms, so maybe I'm just not hearing from the legions of people who don't agree.

        Making it apply to all media broadcast into the house is a nice touch. I might have to update mine to include that. Luckily I don't have to notify anybody though because one of the terms is "you agree to all future versions of these terms no matter how unreasonable".

  33. Schultz
    Go

    My favorite Yes/No/Cancel buttons

    Do you want to cancel your command?

    [yes] [cancel]

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