crazy programming language thoughts

Terry Hancock hancock at
Fri Aug 22 15:47:08 CEST 2003

Istvan Albert wrote:
> Ryan Lowe wrote:
>  >>>>v = read lines from 'file.txt';
> join it with '\n'; lower it; split it at '.'
> split line at '\n' is no better than line.split("\n")
> after all then you could argue that you should be
> able to say "'\n' is the splitting character in line" or
> "break into pieces at '\n'" and so on.

Yeah, I think this is ultimately the problem with "English-like"
syntax.  The fact that Python's syntax (one of many examples)
is more like mathematical notation is a cue to both the author
and the reader that a more exacting attention to syntax is
required.   Maybe this is what they really meant by "one obvious
way to do it" versus "there's more than one way to do it": in
English there are many -- maybe infinitely many -- ways to say
essentially the same thing.

But a parser that could understand them all would pass the
Turing Test and want a paycheck. ;-)

Of course, it is interesting to note that it is the *author* who
primarily needs this cue.  The *reader* benefits from using English
words instead of abstract symbols.  So perhaps this is why
Python's mix of syntax works well -- not too hard to write, and
not too hard to read.  I'm not even going to speculate about
whether it is the best such mix. ;-)

The main language I use that resembles the "English" style
is SQL:

SELECT * FROM table_a WHERE field_b LIKE '.*[abc][def]'

and while I find SQL very useful in its limited application
domain, I wouldn't really want to turn it into a real
programming language*!


*By which I meant "Turing Complete" and nothing else.  And
no value judgements whatsoever.  :lol:

Terry Hancock
Anansi Spaceworks

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