[Haskell-cafe] Re: Allowing hyphens in identifiers

Jon Fairbairn jon.fairbairn at cl.cam.ac.uk
Wed Dec 16 06:04:21 EST 2009

Daniel Fischer <daniel.is.fischer at web.de> writes:

> Am Dienstag 15 Dezember 2009 03:04:43 schrieb Richard O'Keefe:
>> On Dec 14, 2009, at 5:11 PM, Daniel Fischer wrote:
>> > 1. I wasn't playing in the under_score vs. camelCase game, just
>> > proposing a possible
>> > reason why the camelCase may have been chosen for Haskell's standard
>> > libraries.
>> But the insanely abbreviated example did not provide such a reason.
> Of course not. But if you expand it - and it's not difficult,
> even when insanely abbreviated -, the resulting sentence gives
> a possible reason: "Maybe it's because the underscore style is
> considered far uglier and less readable by others." If the
> early Haskellers felt that way, isn't it perfectly natural
> that they chose the camelCase style?

As one of the early Haskellers, I definitely preferred
underscores, because my intuition told me that it was closer in
appearance to normal English¹ text, and my belief was that even
programmers read more English than code. Unfortunately I'm not a
very persuasive person, and couldn't argue my case (beyond
having underscores /permitted/). The problem is that once people
have spent some time using one style or other, their ability to
self-analyse their reading of it becomes negligible. "Ugly" and
"less readable" become synonymous with "not the style I'm used
to", irrespective of actual effects on reading speed. And
introspection is a notoriously bad method of anyalysing
psychological factors in the first place.

This really should have been decided with proper experiments.

> Of course, they may have had entirely different reasons, or no
> concrete reason at all and it just happened.

In the absence of hard data, it only takes a slight bias in
exposure among members of the committee to tip a decision the
wrong way.

[1] and quite a high proportion of other natural languages.

Jón Fairbairn                                 Jon.Fairbairn at cl.cam.ac.uk

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