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Re: [OT] The stigma of schemas

On Fri, 29 Jun 2001, Uche Ogbuji wrote:

> But all that aside, my argument for "schema", "schemata" go beyond respect
> for the original language: it includes respect for English.  

My argument for "schemas" is much simpler: "schemata" sounds as
if the speaker is showing off a knowledge of Greek which (by
implication) the new listener probably does not have. It's a
piece of historical pomposity from the early days of database
technology which has long outlived its usefulness.

(I'm happy to see no-one arguing for the undifferentiated
"schema" as the plural form as well as the singular, though.
From its widespread abuse, even in the hands of XML experts,
I thought it might have had some merit which was escaping me.)

Technology, and especially computer science, is far too full
already of words being used in unusual (and occasionally,
unnecessary) senses. It is essential to have an accurate special
vocabulary to discuss the subject, but there is a tendency
to add to or unnecessarily perpetuate this corpus as a method of
defending our territory from the outsider, or by making
comprehension the price of admission. 

> Efforts to pare this richness to a blond regularity of idiom are quite
> dangerous.  Newspeak in Orwell's 1984 is not just about efforts to
> place political codes into speech (as the popular press seems to
> interpret it).  It's more about the effort to stultify people's
> imagination through highly regular idiom.

I agree completely that there is this risk also. But in the
present case I see the longer plural as adding unneeded
complexity to an already complex subject.

> I see this as a real threat.  And it does seem that the computer
> revolution has dangerous tendencies towards Newspeak.

It takes time for a language to absorb new material. US English
speakers still talk about the cut of meat as a "fee-lay" when
British English speakers have said "fill-it" for over a century.
These are the linguistic differences we can enjoy and allow
to persist, as they cause no harm to anyone and enrich the

Differences which merely act as barriers to comprehension or
acceptance, however, have no place in the discussion of our
technology. I would actually argue that the computer revolution
is precisely *not* heading towards Newspeak, as its constant
invention of new words and shades of meaning is enriching our
language rather than stultifying it. Fortunately, many of these
inventions are chosen with care by people with a high regard for
language and derivation, perhaps indeed with Latin and Greek in
their education. In this case I think preserving an irregular
plural just to show we know where the word came from is not