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Why have standards?

November 4 2008 at 7:05 AM
Michael Dorosh 

Response to Re: Won v Awarded

Why have standards?

Standardization obviously carries both benefits and drawbacks. To my mind, though, standards make possible an open system of communication - it's what makes English the powerful language it is. If there were no standards, we'd be unable to communicate effectively. As someone who routinely points out his status as a soldier, I'd think you'd be aware of that. Think of a fire control order. Group, Range, Indication, Target. Sure, it happens otherwise. A Cameron Highlander in the Second World War is reported to have yelled out to one of his machine gunners "There's the son of a bitch! Nail him!" upon spotting a German bomber in the air. The message was still communicated. We're not arguing over absolute means of transmission or whether or not you can get the message there in the end.

In fact, in the news not long ago, it wsa poervn taht ouy cldou upt lla eth ovwels otu fo rdero nda istll egt eth emssage crossa. Does that mean it is desirable to do so?

Standards are viewed as restrictive, or somehow holding back innovation. That may be true when discussing software development, but has little to do with the writing of history. We don't need to "invent" new words to describe events from 60 years ago. The words of the past are probably more important in understanding what they did - in fact, they are vital to our understanding of their mindset. "Battle exhaustion" is far more evocative of what a 1944 doctor felt towards his patient than the current psychiatric terms like "post traumatic stress disorder." Language is revisionism, and worse, changing the language makes us change our perception of their world.

Why do we have standards?


So we all know what is being said. The VC is not a prize. The language "won" suggests it is, however subtly. Words mean things. They have cascading effects on understanding of other things. A single incorrect word in a sentence can change the entire meaning of an entire book.

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