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   Re: [xml-dev] Names As Types

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On 8/30/05, Nathan Young <natyoung@cisco.com> wrote:
> Hi.
> I may well have bent the conversation into a tangent.  I admit that by now
> I'm totally confused by the turtle metaphor.

First, it's a reference to an old joke -   "bigname scientist was
giving a lecture on astronomy. After the lecture, an elderly lady came
up and told the scientist that he had it all wrong. 'The world is
really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The
scientist asked "And what is the turtle standing on?"
To which the lady triumphantly replied: "You're very clever, young
man, but it's no use -- it's turtles all the way down."" [That
particular version is at

The point is that there's no "bottom of the XML stack" at which you
can authoritatively say what an element or attribute name or value
refers to in the real world.  Rather, one can only talk about the
upper layers of "turtles" [specs, bits of code, well-defined concepts,
whatever] that are understood in a particular context.

I'm not sure if this is Platonic or not.  To switch metaphors, XML
labels are the shadows on the cave wall, and say nothing about the
source of the illumination or the reality of the body casting the

Finally, one should understand the xml-dev in general and Len  and I
in particular love to beat  what we think of as clever metaphors into
a bloody whimpering  pulp, so don't worry too much if it doesn't make
sense to you.  It might not make any sense at all :-)


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