Why aren't colons optional?

John Roth johnroth at ameritech.net
Wed Jan 23 12:08:46 CET 2002


"Courageous" <jkraska at san.rr.com> wrote in message
news:2n9s4uscrdnf1kn7tqeoljq1bn2mngibsa at 4ax.com...
>
> >On the other hand, those very "stodgy old grammaticians" are the very
people
> >that allow other people to 'scale', understand a language, test
limits
> >etc.... Without those persons, there would be no room to expand. What
I mean
> >is that those very persons contribute to the whole. Every part is
useful to
> >the whole, whether you agree with its usefulness or not. The very
thing that
> >defines something as bad is "useful" in that it allows us to use it
as a
> >model (or the opposite of) to follow/avoid.
>
> Certainly. When I think of these things, I recall old memes,
antiquated
> and out of date: "Thou shalt not end a sentence with a preposition."
> "Sentences are not to be begun with a conjunction." "Objects of the
verb
> 'to be' or to be left in subjective case."

Two points. He's talking about computer grammers, specifically about
the grammer for the Python language. He's not talking about English,
or any other natural language. A computer language is dictated by
the language designer, and if you want a good, flexible language that
can be cleanly extended, you do need to follow some rules about
how you design programming languages.

To stray onto your off-topic response, there has always been some
tension between the prescriptivists and the descriptivists. The basic
difficulty with English grammer (whichever dialect you use) is that it
was invented in the late 19th century in order to have something to
teach grammer school children. They based it on Latin grammer,
and there is no resemblance. The rule about not ending a sentence
with a preposition is typical. I am told that is absolutely true in
Latin. No exceptions. In English, it is perfectly legitimate to do so,
as long as the object occurs earlier in the sentence.

To see why that is the case, you need to consider the actual
semantics of the language. That, however, is so far off topic
that I'm not going to go into it here.

> Ever pick up the phone and say "It's me"?. This is incorrect.

You're quite right it's incorrect. The correct response is
either "Hello?," your name or company affiliation or some such
thing.

John Roth





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