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"Prepend" doesn't mean what you think it means
- To: cygwin at cygwin dot com
- Subject: "Prepend" doesn't mean what you think it means
- From: Clarke Echols <clarke at verinet dot net>
- Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 19:35:08 -0600
There is a word, invented at AT&T decades ago, that now pervades the
Unix world that is _WRONG_ and needs to be stamped out in the interest
of preserving the "mother tongue"!
When I was responsible for the HP-UX manual pages in the 1980s and 90s,
from HP-UX 5.0 through 9.0. I discovered in 1986 that the word "prepend"
does _not_ mean what most people think it means. Proof?: How do you
"premeditate" a file? Or, better yet, how do you "premeditate" _to_ a
file? [So often one sees in text that a file is "prepended to" another
file or a string is "prepended to" another string. Aargh!]
"Prepend" is a very obscure word which means literally to premeditate,
as in, "He looked at her with malice prepended." It is not the opposite
of append, and though "append" is normally understood to mean attachment
at the end of an object, it means attachment, but does not specify a location;
i.e., an appendage can be at the beginning, end, off the side of, or
whereever else you might put it. I looked for it first about 1985 and
found it in only one of two unabridged dictionaries.
When I set about to eradicate the word from HP documentation, I was met
with loud howls of objection, but I was finally vindicated by a customer
inquiry from someone who used English as a secondary language. The
customer was confused at the meaning of "prepend" because when he looked
it up in a dictionary, he couldn't make sense of it in a Unix context.
Linux/Cygwin is used in a very international setting, and we would be doing
our non-North-American fellows a great favor by using precise and correct
I provided a similar explanation in 1988/89 to the IEEE POSIX committee
representative from HP where I was then employed, and as a result, the
word "prepend" was removed from the POSIX standard. It would be nice if
it could be eradicated from manual pages for GNU software as well.
Not to rave, but it's a pet peeve and one of my many soapbox topics.
On the positive side, I just was made aware of Cygwin yesterday, and I
installed it last night and was splendidly surprised at how smoothly it
went despite a restart of setup.exe after a operator-error bomb-out and
loss of communication with the modem that forced a disconnect/reconnect.
Congratulations to those whose hard work created such a nice resource.
It's like a breath of sunshine after moving from HP-UX onto a
<expletive deleted> Windows 98 machine.
Clarke F. Echols, P.E.
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