Case sensitivity

Alex Martelli aleax at aleax.it
Sat Feb 22 08:34:51 CET 2003


rzed wrote:
   ...
> there multiple possibilities. "A coke" or "a Coke" mean the same thing,

Yes, and THAT is the point -- *so they should*!

> and neither means "some quantity of the fuel called coke."

Describing the fizzy drink as a "fuel" might be at best a witticism, yes;-).

> But suppose I walk into a store where, for some unknown reason, I have the
> option of buying either a carton of Coke or a carton of coke.
> Case-sensitivity allows me to use capitalization as a means to distinguish
> between the two. It's not the only way to do it. I could point and grunt,

With lowercase and uppercase C looking SO similar in typical handwriting,
it would be ridiculous to try to distinguish by writing out what you want 
with "proper" capitalization.  And if you were in a German-speaking 
country, where nouns are grammatically capitalized, do you think this
would inhibit your purchasing?  Nah -- you'd use the same -- preferable --
disambiguation means as in other languages.  Capitalization is just not
practical for this use.

> or just pick up the item I want, or any of a number of other things, but I
> have to do something to disambiguate the request. Case is one means of
> disambiguation. Lacking case-sensitivity, I have to rename one or the
> other of the objects. Bummer.

Germans don't have to and neither would you.  In natural language, a
name stands for a "cloud" of things anyway.


> This whole discussion is fun and all, but probably not worth repeating
> annually, as we seem to. It wouldn't destroy me to lose case-sensitivity.

I entirely agree this discussion is not worth repeating (I do not agree it's
fun) since it won't change Python.  But when somebody without anything
better to do fires it up again, each side apparently feels compelled to
speak up anyway -- just as in any other unending, useless debate out
of the many happening all the time on Usenet.  I understand the feeling
of "compulsion" -- leaving the floor to the defenders of case sensitivity
would feel like to me like a "betrayal of the cause", so to speak.

> It wouldn't destroy me to lose color or pitch differences, either. I'm
> just used to those things.

It's a neat things for editors to colorize, just as it might be for them to
standardize capitalization if Python were case-insensitive.  It would be
a small tragedy if Python itself became color-sensitive, raising errors
when names are spelled in the "wrong" colors -- and what it does today
when names are spelled with "wrong" capitalization is much like that.


Alex





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