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dependencies

dependencies

Posted Jul 3, 2009 20:31 UTC (Fri) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
In reply to: dependencies by giraffedata
Parent article: Soft updates, hard problems

"I'm adding undelete function" sounds desperately ungrammatical to me: at
the very least it's missing an article.

"I'm adding an undelete function" is grammatical but does *not* mean the
same thing as 'I'm adding undelete functionality" (one has definite
number, the other does not).

Your statement about 'connectivity' is also nonsense: your
sample "ungrammatical" sentence is perfectly grammatical.


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dependencies

Posted Jul 3, 2009 22:00 UTC (Fri) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

"I'm adding undelete function" sounds desperately ungrammatical to me: at the very least it's missing an article.

You don't recognize "function" as a mass noun? Form follows function? Some function is too costly provide? Which half of the function shall we leave out?

You're right that "I have connectivity to Chicago" is grammatically correct, and it isn't nonsense as I said. It's just a nonsensical phrasing for a statement that I have a connection, when there are plainer ways to phrase it. Like saying that what distinguishes a window from a door is that a window has transparency.

dependencies

Posted Jul 3, 2009 22:37 UTC (Fri) by jzbiciak (subscriber, #5246) [Link]

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. -- Groucho Marx

Gotta love the chameleon-like nature of certain words in English. "Function" is such a word. In a computer context, it's use pretty much boils down to one of three of its many potential meanings:

  • A mathematical construct, such as f(x) = x2.
  • A self contained piece of code (in some sense modeled after the mathematical construct).
  • A synonym for the word "role."

In all three cases, the noun is not a mass noun. It makes sense to use an article with "function" in the original example, regardless of which of the two senses ("piece of code" or "role") were intended.

Even in your example, "Form follows function," "function" does not act as a mass noun. In that example, there is an implied "its" in front of both "form" and "function:" "(Its) form follows (its) function." And "its" can be replaced with any possessive: "Fred's form follows Fred's function." "The iPhone's form follows the iPhone's function."

And here we see that the "form follows function" example is bogus. I imagine Forrest Gump would take no issue with "iPhone's form follows iPhone's function," but most people would be more comfortable saying "The iPhone's form follows the iPhone's function."

Here's a better test. When there's "many" of something, we use "many" if it's a counting noun, and "much" if it's a mass noun. ("Many chairs" vs. "much furniture.") So, by means of a concrete example: Would you say complicated, overreaching software has:

  1. Too much function.
  2. Too much functionality.
  3. Too many functions.

I reckon the latter two are accepted more widely than the first.

Remind me what this had to do with filesystems again? I must thoroughly apologize for having highlighted the obscure trivia of "dependences" vs. "dependencies."

dependencies

Posted Jul 4, 2009 2:33 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

Hmm. "Too much function" sounds perfectly fine to me, but maybe it's just something I made up. I see the dictionary doesn't mention anything close to that meaning. It also doesn't cover other uses I'm sure I've heard around the engineering world, like "we're testing function this week and performance next week," or "is the patch just for maintainability, or does it affect function?"

And with "form follows function," I don't see how an implied "its" fits in there. I think an architect might well say, "I used to think just about form, but now I spend most of my time worrying about function."

But even if a certain feature of a device can't be considered a "piece of function," I can't see how it could be considered a "piece of functionality" either.

dependencies

Posted Jul 4, 2009 2:48 UTC (Sat) by jzbiciak (subscriber, #5246) [Link]

At the very least, "piece of functionality" has nearly 100k hits on Google, generally referring individual features of a product or device. In contrast, "piece of function" only gets 14,500, and most of those that I looked at are phrases where "function" modifies something else--ie. "piece of function noun".

*shrug*

dependencies

Posted Jul 4, 2009 3:30 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

Sure, but popularity is irrelevant to the point I'm making. In fact, I mentioned in my first post that "functionality" is widely used this way - it's why I thought it was worth mentioning. "Dependency" is quite a bit more popular than "dependence" in computer science discussions, but still wrong. Other phrasings that are in majority use but wrong: IDE to mean ATA, DB-9 to mean DE-9, RJ45 to mean the 8 position modular connector we use with Ethernet. "Could care less" to mean couldn't care less, gridlock to mean slow traffic, exponential growth to mean fast growth, steep learning curve to mean shallow learning curve.

dependencies

Posted Jul 4, 2009 9:18 UTC (Sat) by SiB (subscriber, #4048) [Link]

> Sure, but popularity is irrelevant to the point I'm making.

Language is supposed to serve people, not the other way. What people use and understand defines language, not the dictionary. The dictionary is supposed to record how people use language. Language evolves. Dictionaries need to follow that change. Popularity is all that matters. (I'm not a native English speaker, but what I said should apply to all languages in use.)

dependencies

Posted Jul 4, 2009 18:12 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

Sure, but popularity is irrelevant to the point I'm making.
Language is supposed to serve people, not the other way. What people use and understand defines language, not the dictionary.

I agree, but I don't know why you bring it up. While I made the statement above about popularity, I didn't say anything about dictionaries except to say that the dictionary doesn't support my usage of "function."

Popularity is all that matters

Language serves people best by being logical, consistent, precise, and easily expressive. Those are not implied by popularity -- the number of people using a particular phrasing. When one chooses between two phrasings to write, the relative number of times one has heard one or the other should be a fairly minor factor.

dependencies

Posted Jul 4, 2009 12:12 UTC (Sat) by ajf (subscriber, #10844) [Link]

At the very least, "piece of functionality" has nearly 100k hits on Google
... and definately has nearly 14 million.

dependencies

Posted Jul 4, 2009 12:26 UTC (Sat) by jzbiciak (subscriber, #5246) [Link]

...many of which are people complaining that it's to be spelled "definitely," which incidentally gets nearly 10x as many hits (over 128M).

How exactly have you invalidated the notion that the relative hit count between two directly comparable alternatives suggests which one is more likely to be correct? I'd be worried if "definitely" got 100k hits but "definately" got 14M.

dependencies

Posted Jul 4, 2009 16:29 UTC (Sat) by ajf (subscriber, #10844) [Link]

Quite right, I should have compared it to the definantly count and concluded definately was "more likely to be correct" - which an utterly worthless conclusion, because both are still wrong. And that's exactly where your comparison leaves us.


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