[r6rs-discuss] use of "bytes"
cowan at ccil.org
Wed Nov 22 10:15:57 EST 2006
Michael Sperber scripsit:
> One reason why "bytes" may be preferable is that they state (not quite
> historically precisely, but close enough) what the unit of addressing
> these things is.
That's true, but it suffers badly from being a plural noun. We can speak
easily of a pair or a vector, or of copying data from this port to that
port, or of the list B, but we cannot speak of *"a bytes", nor *"this
bytes", nor *"bytes B". That's annoying.
People then try to fall back to using "bytes object" in prose, but that
too is ungrammatical, though more subtly so. There is a strong but
not absolutely universal constraint against using a plural noun on the
left side of a noun-noun compound. This constraint is not imposed when
the left noun has an irregular plural ("mice eater" is more acceptable
than *"rats eater"), nor when the plural objects are treated severally
rather than jointly, as in "enemies list" for a list of enemies.
A "bytes object", however, is not an object of bytes (that is, "object"
does not refer to a collection, as "list" does in "enemies list"), but
an object which contains bytes. Consequently, anglophones feel some
degree of (mostly unconscious) constraint about using the expression.
(German does not have this constraint very strongly, mostly because almost
all German nouns have, in the relevant technical sense, irregular plurals.
However, the constraint can be felt when the first part of a compound
noun takes its plural in -s.)
All these problems go away if a singular countable noun is chosen.
There are various usable compounds like "byte string", "byte sequence",
and "byte vector" (or their counterparts with "octet"), but all the
other primitive types except for "the empty list", which is a singleton,
have one-word names, and for that reason I favor "blob".
John Cowan cowan at ccil.org http://ccil.org/~cowan
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths
led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen. I am the clue-finder,
the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number. --Bilbo
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