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You raised some excellent points, and you're right about many of them. English is a mess, even by comparison to other natural languages. However, a couple of observations may be in order. First, I don't actually need to write a parser. I came equipped with one, and it does a reasonable enough job - and so do most peoples'. Overall, people do understand one another, more or less. There are always spectacular exceptions, the stuff of many comedies and tragedies. Second, while everyone knows a subset of English, we tend to limit our spoken vocabularies to an even smaller subset, possibly for this very reason. In ordinary conversation I use fewer different words, and much simpler ones than I would for a term paper, for example. Because of this, most people understand me when I talk to them. I think what I'm trying to say here is that within my particular group of English-speakers, we tend to use a subsets that have more members in common.

Unfortunately, another problem with English is that we often use expressions without having any good idea about what they mean (your "tow the line" was a perfect example). I've seen things like putting the "petal to the metal", "he's not all their", and so on. Makes me want to pound my head with a brick. Still, overall, people do seem to convey their meanings well enough most of the time. When they don't - well, that's what laywers are for. ;-)

Between the regional differences ("fossicking for wolfram" could be called "prospecting for tungsten"), variations in spelling, pronunciation, grammar, etc., the changes that occur over time, and slang, it's really confusing. If you have access to OED, check out the definitions for "pure". # 12 is "dog poop" (they use different words, but that's what they're talking about). Hey, that guy is real pure... Nice used to mean nasty, wantons once referred to innocents, and so on. Bad is good... war is peace...

*NO* one knows all the words in the OED, not even the guy who assembled it (he's dead, anyway). Somewhere I read that at best a highly literate person knows in the neighborhood of 50K words. The OED defines about ten times that number. I don't even know anyone who could reliably recognize whether a group of characters was even a word in the OED, much less always say what it means. So, no - no one knows all the words in English.

As for taking discourse in the temple of Mars - ah, well, I am a devotee of Venus... or Dionysus... I'll pass.

In reply to Re^3: Perl for big projects (OT now) by spiritway
in thread Perl for big projects by CountZero

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