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Re: should "use byte" be "use bytes"?

Tom Christiansen
February 9, 2000 14:36
Re: should "use byte" be "use bytes"?
Message ID:
>I prefer bytes over octets because it's one <mumble> shorter.

Your intuition is right on the money, although perhaps you didn't
conciously realize why you were leaning that way.  Actually, you
see, "bytes" is really *way* shorter than "octets".

I'm not talking typing, either--but if I were, I should point out
that the letters "ctets" are typed all under the left hand, which
results in something more than a tad unpleasant to type.

No, I'm talking about *sounds*, here.  If you look at "bytes", you
get something like /baIts/ phonemically (please see footnote), which
as goes from closed to open to closed {COC} again, and that's it.
You could even argue that the /aI/ counts as one phoneme and thus
takes lets cognitive space.  Heck, in some places of the world, so
does /ts/.  Certainty in the American South, you're apt to hear
utterances that would phonetically be [bha?s] or [bha:s], losing
the /t/ -> [?] in normal speech, and the /aI/ manifesting as [a]
or a drawn-out (drawled out? :-) [a:].  The [h] is an aspiration,
the [?] is the swallowed "t".

Now compare this with "octets".  Using the brace notation above,
we end up with an open-close sequence {OCCOC}, which is much harder.
But your mouth is a three-dimensional object, not two, so you also
have a front-back alternation between the "ct" pair to contend with.
Your poor mouth has all kinds of transitions to make, across several
different axes.  This is not a lot of fun, which is why it always
gets worn down over the course of time; consider what happen to
Latin "octo-" in modern Romance tongues, or even how differently
English now pronounces German "knecht" when we say "knight".

The word "octets" looks like /Ok 'tE?s/ phonemically, which is full
of painfully clumsy post-positive aspirations in its common phonetic
manifestations.  It ends up being more like [Okh 'thets], because
there's a glaring [h] aspiration between the /kt/ boundary, at
least, and then probably another one again after the first "t".
Yes, the second "t" got swallowed a bit into [?], as it did with

The word also has something of an uncommon stress for a two-syllable
English noun, falling as it does on the last syllable instead of
the penult.  And really, "octets" is, all in all, a terribly uptight
word, one whose crisp articulation doesn't lend itself to a relaxed
pronunciation.  Well, at least, not to one permissible in polite
company:  I'm not sure ['Akh tIts] is something you want your
children reproducing, eh?  Sounds like something the early explorers
might have said when they named Grands Tetons National Park. :-)

In short, yes, you were exceedingly right--and for many interesting
underlying reasons--when you said "bytes" was shorter than "octets".


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