PEP 312 - Making lambdas implicit worries me, surely it's just the name 'lambda' that is bad...

Stephen Horne intentionally at
Fri Mar 14 17:30:31 CET 2003

On Fri, 14 Mar 2003 10:33:31 GMT, Alex Martelli <aleax at>

>Stephen Horne wrote:
>   ...
>>>>>> starts a line". Other frequently used words (such as built-in function
>>>>>> names) also never start a line - 'reduce' is as long as 'lambda' for a
>   ...
>>>So, the assertion that built-in function names never start a line
>>>is incorrect.
>> I never made that assertion, though on further examination I see why
>> you thought I did.
>Ah, yes -- I do see a parenthesis of "Other <Y>s (such as <X>s)" as 
>meaning "all <X>s are <Y>s" without needing a redundant "all" after
>the word "as" (just as "all <X>s are <Y>s" does not need the pleonasm
>of the reinforcing "all" -- it means the same thing without it).


I was about to get all angry and start accusing you of weaseling me...
thankfully I didn't.

Put it this way.

I have Aspergers disorder, and as a result I have a strong tendency to
overpedantic use and interpretation of language. Back at school in
particular, I was beaten up repeatedly for this (though not - for this
- in the literal sense).

Having been told that my interpretating that structure that way was
wrong - repeatedly and with menace, and often by English teachers - I
assumed it was actually wrong - that the 'such as' need not imply
'all' even though it frequently does.

I've heard enough people use the structure this way (and used it
myself that way) without confusion that I've never questioned that.

Now I think about it, that is probably another Aspergers trait at work
- over-literalness. Perhaps I was merely missing their intention, but
they weren't sufficiently pedantic in explaining that to me.

So basically, I'm now in some doubt as to what an English grammar book
would say - I will be checking with a reliable third party soon (the
Aspergers trait of obsessiveness, I expect ;-) ) as my Collins Gem
English Usage has just failed me for the first time ever.

Even without this, I believe the 'context' justification holds a fair
amount of water - but I would have accepted a possible need to

In normal use, most language forms *are* regularly used in ways that,
according to the textbooks, are inaccurate. Not all possible meanings
of a given syntactic structure, any more than a possible choice of
words, should be taken seriously. Expecting people to obsessively
remove every possible misinterpretation and every possible
justification for a misinterpretation would make language completely
impractical. That is presumably why I've seen so much evidence for my
interpretation of the '(such as ...)' form.

I have a theory that part of the Aspergers language pedanticism
actually arises out of the lack of 'empathy' - if you are unable to
track peoples intentions (or to express your own intentions) through
non-verbal and subtext channels, you have a greater need to send and
recieve clarification. Regular confusion, accusations of stupidity,
and desparate attempts to cope ensue. One of the desparate attempts to
cope can be ever increasing language pedanticism, even in contexts
where it is unnecessary (because we don't know whether its necessary
or not - lack of empathy again) in order to send and gain
clarifications. In simple terms, if you are misinterpreted one course
of action is to use more precise language to clarify. If you cannot
understand someone else, you may request clarification by explaining
the unclear (to you) aspect of what was said. Repeat and reinforce ad
nauseum and something similar to Aspergers language pedanticism is
bound to happen.

Incidentally, my own language pedanticism was also why I became
facinated in the whole issue of whether natural language can have a
formal definition - and how I became a pedantic crusader against
language pedants! (It's not hypocrisy if I use the arguments against
myself, to moderate my own pedanticism, too - I hope!)

After all, while people often think of English grammar references as
definitive, they cannot strictly be that except in the 'relative
absolute' sense (that's getting to be my favorite term for the week).
The English language is an entity defined by the collective
understanding of its speakers - the grammar references were written by
people (experts, true, but certainly not omniscient ones) who were
describing something much older than them and something which
continues to evolve. There is no-one with the authority to define what
the English language is.

There is the term 'the Queens English' - but the Queen doesn't write
English language textbooks, and neither is she the primary source of
information for those who do. It's just an old expression which has
lost its originally literal meaning - and even when it was literally
true that what royalty said was law, I doubt any King or Queen ever
wrote a dictionary or grammar reference ;-)

I believe France has an organisation which *does* have a kind of
authority to define the French language. But as the French public
generally ignores it, even that is a debatable point!

So at this point, I believe I can get away with a small piece of
weaseling by saying that - if that 'such as' structure is so often
used in the 'not necessarily all' sense (whether by accident or
design), without confusion - maybe in everyday English language it
isn't as wrong as the textbooks might say.

One of Pinkers points in "Words and Rules" was that what we regard as
correct now was frequently seen as sloppy and inaccurate use in the
past and - far enough back - as so wrong as to be bizarre. That's how
the language evolves.

>> Now I think about it, most built-in functions probably return a value
>They all do, but that value can of course be None.  

Was that a deliberate attempt to annoy me!!! ;-)

IMO, the missing word 'useful' was redundant - unnecessary because the
intention was clear in context and the distinction irrelevant to the
issue being discussed.

>Once again, the _relevance_ of this to anything whatsoever appears to
>be totally mysterious to me.  If MOST built-in functions very rarely
>make sense at the start of a logical line, then the "context" you were
>earlier claiming as the justification for (what I do still consider)
>your mis-statement is very weak indeed -- and so much more important
>was it then for me to correct that mis-statement, according to your
>own interpretations as previously presented.

Your original statement implied that I wasn't aware of that built-in
function names can start a line. To me, that fact is common sense
therefore I felt insulted - if it is common sense, then your telling
me implies that I don't even know common sense things.

On realising that no insult was intended, I wanted to do more than
just say 'sorry' and go away - a simple retraction leaves open the
possibility that I might want the issue to go away, but still believe
in myself that you wanted to insult me. I don't believe that you
intended an insult, so I wanted to make sure that was understood.

In an (obviously misguided) attempt to show that I can see different
sides to the issue, I explained why I think it's common sense and gave
one reason why others might have a different view of what's common
sense would do that. If your view of whether the issue is common sense
is different, you weren't necessarily calling me stupid.

In short, I was trying to express that maybe, in another persons

>the "context" you were
>earlier claiming as the justification for (what I do still consider)
>your mis-statement is very weak indeed

And now I feel a little upset that you picked up on that thought, yet
you completely missed the intention behind it and used it to attack me
rather than in the spirit of reconciliation in which it was offered.

Of course I have no right to complain about that, but I hope you can
understand what I'm saying now - before long, the clarifications are
already reaching an epic scale ;-)

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