The Null Device

Descriptivism vs. Prescriptivism

In his Jargon File, Eric S. Raymond argues that using the word "hacker" to mean "someone who breaks into computers" as opposed to "intellectually curious tinkerer" is deprecated and factually incorrect. Someone named Raven Black has a good rant about why ESR is wrong:
The Jargon File talks absolute bollocks about the word hacker. It claims that using it as a synonym of cracker is deprecated. No it's bloody not, Mr Jargon File, it's common usage, quite the opposite. What you mean is you, like Mr How To Become A Hacker, want it to be deprecated because you want your precious word back, just like wiccans claim that witch means wiccan even though it's fucking obvious that common usage has it meaning the green evil warty cauldron broomstick variety. Claiming that the common usage is deprecated just gets those people you'd have call themselves hackers (or witches) into trouble when they do so in non-wanker company and are misunderstood.

Mr. Black proposes a new word (akin to "wiccan" for "witch") to be used for the benign meaning of "hacker". The word proposed, however, is "phrenic", which sounds (a) about as daft as atheists calling themselves "Brights", and (b) like a plausible abbreviation for "schizophrenic" (much in the way that "tard" is used as a derogatory term for the mentally challenged). Chances are if tinkerers started calling themselves "phrenics", the word would devolve to become a slang term for "weird and/or crazy person" in popular usage, applying to everybody from the mumbling, long-bearded programmer in the back office to the mumbling, dishevelled itinerant on the street corner.

There are 1 comments on "Descriptivism vs. Prescriptivism":

Posted by: Graham http://grudnuk.com/ Fri Oct 31 08:02:34 2003

My grud, I hope your definition of "phrenic" is the one that takes hold.

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