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Re: Poor State of the Man Pages

david nicol
December 3, 2003 11:16
Re: Poor State of the Man Pages
Message ID:
On Tue, 2003-12-02 at 07:28, Abhijit Menon-Sen wrote:
> At 2003-12-01 17:50:32 -0600, wrote:
> >
> > This operation was termed "translation" by some whimsical software
> > engineer deep in the mists of long-ago, due to the functional
> > similarity between the operation of tr(1) and the activity of
> > translating language by looking up words in a bilinugal dictionary.

I took latin in junior high and I remember this algorithm for
doing homework:

	0: bookmark glossary in textbook
	1: identify latin word
	2: look up latin word in dictionary
	3: write down english word
	4: end-of-homework or goto 1

This maps directly into the operation of tr(1):

	0: create dictionary from arguments
	1: identify input character
	2: look up input character in dictionary
	3: write down output character
	4: end-of-string or goto 1

> Er, did you mean to say transliterate instead of translate? If so, then
> the rest of your message makes no sense, because there is no similarity
> between the operation of tr(1) and looking up words in a dictionary. If
> not, then your message still makes no sense, because the operation was
> never termed translation in the first place.

man tr on the system I am using claims that tr is "translate"

> I don't understand the argument anyway. My copy of the OED defines the
> word transliterate as «To replace letters or characters of one language
> by those of another used to represent the same sounds; to write (a word,
> etc.) in the characters of another alphabet.»

Transliteration implies this same-sound thing.  tr does not have
anything to do with sounds in different alphabets.  If you use tr
to implement a reversible single substitution cipher like so:


you're not pretending that there is a written language where zero
sounds like little ay.

Tr creates a "dictionary" mapping and "translates" the string,
character for character, just like a dissatisfied seventh-grader
doing their latin homework (with extreme disregard for the subtleties
of latin grammar.)

> Or are people just forgetting that "language" is also a term stolen from
> linguistics and given a specific meaning by computer science? :-)
> -- ams

Or that reality is a metaphor for Go?

david nicol "I'll be working, working; but if you come visit I'll
put down what I'm doing: my friends are important" -- David Byrne Perl Programming lists via nntp and http.
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