Subject: Re: English in NetBSD
To: Reinier Jonker <>
From: Richard Rauch <>
List: current-users
Date: 05/07/2003 02:30:41

Language evolves.  "American English" is no more a descendant of modern
"Brittish English" than we are descendants of the particular apes (or
even variety of apes) in your local zoo.  Common ancestry, yes, but not
one is not a direct descendant of the other.

We can still intercommunicate with each other (and this will probably be
helped by modern communications technologies).  Whether that's enough to
say that it's just two dialects of one language, or two distinct languages,
is up to your private interpretation.  ("A language is just a dialect with
an army and a navy...")

If historical derivation matters overwhelmingly to you, I have heard
(but obviously cannot personally verify; (^&) that English as spoken
(and written?) in the U.S is closer to the English that was spoken by
the Brittish at the time of the European colonizatin of North America.
So by that argument, "American English" would be the historically more
"true" English, while current "Brittish English" is the more deviant.
{\sarcasm I guess those Brits had better shape up before they completely
forget how to speak English!}

But this is completely absurd.  Natural language is not defined by committee
or rules.  The language evolves.  People attempt to describe its current
practice in their dictionaries and grammars, and hopefully get the
information committed before it is too out of date.  (As someone said,
a standard is all well and good, but it needs to be properly defined
before it is worth worrying about.  And no one has, or will, or can
properly define a graven-in-stone standard for English or any other
living language.)

As for this particular case: I think that we (the people who are most likely
to read the line of prose in question) all agree that we *can* parse it
either way and life will go on.  The NetBSD documentation is not entirely
consistant in choosing contemporary "American English" conventions, though I
think that they may be more prevalent.

If there isn't a policy about "American English" or "Brittish English"
variants in the rules for NetBSD documentation, maybe there should be
in order to make things more consistant.  But, pending that, I don't
see why people are getting their noses bent out of shape over this.
Let the people who care about making the docs consistant do so.  (And
only complain about their decisions if they contravene stated targets
or make the docs inaccurate.)

I don't think that anyone can claim any moral highground in the matter
of language propriety.

  "I probably don't know what I'm talking about."