Python is readable

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at
Mon Mar 19 16:27:39 CET 2012

On Mon, 19 Mar 2012 12:44:53 +0100, Kiuhnm wrote:

> On 3/18/2012 2:46, Steven D'Aprano wrote:
>> On Sat, 17 Mar 2012 21:23:45 +0100, Kiuhnm wrote:
>>> On 3/16/2012 14:03, Steven D'Aprano wrote:
>>>> A one line routine is still a routine. There is nothing ungrammatical
>>>> about "If you can: take the bus.", although it is non-idiomatic
>>>> English.
>>> In another post you wrote
>>> "Sorry, I was talking about the other sort, the ones who apply the
>>> grammatical rules used by people in real life. You know the ones:
>>> linguists."
>>> Then how do you know that there's nothing ungrammatical about "If you
>>> can: take the bus" if people don't use it?
>> Who says it is ungrammatical?
> You did.
> You're not a prescriptivist, thus you're probably a descriptivist.
> Beeing a descriptivist, you must agree on the fact that
>    "If ...: do this"
> is ungrammatical, because nobody says that.

I believe that you are misunderstanding the descriptivist position. There 
are many sentences which are never said, or perhaps only said once. Most 
non-trivial spoken or written sentences are unique. That doesn't make 
them wrong or erroneous because "nobody says them".

Nobody says "hesitant teapots sleep artistically". It's a meaningless 
sentence, but it is grammatically correct: it obeys the same grammatical 
rule as "hungry dogs howl pitifully" or "devote saints suffer silently": 
ADJECTIVE NOUN VERB ADVERB. This pattern is common in English: nearly 
everyone uses it, and therefore any sentence matching the pattern is 
*grammatically* correct for English even if it is semantically 

On the other hand, "pitifully dogs hungry howl" is incorrect because 
virtually no English speaker writes sentences using the rule ADVERB NOUN 
ADJECTIVE VERB, and on such rare times that somebody does, people will 
notice and declare that it is "wrong" or "doesn't make sense", or 
otherwise correct it.

In my opinion, "If ...: do this" matches a grammatical pattern which I 
see very frequently. I've already given my reasons for this.

> On the other hand, a
> prescriptivist might accept that. BTW, I asked a few teachers of English
> whether "If ...: do this" is correct or not and they, surprisingly, said
> "no".

What matters is not the authorities who say something is right or wrong, 
but their reasons for doing so.


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