[Haskell-cafe] Comments from OCaml Hacker Brian Hurt

Lennart Augustsson lennart at augustsson.net
Thu Jan 15 10:57:42 EST 2009

I have replied on his blog, but I'll repeat the gist of it here.
Why is there a fear of using existing terminology that is exact?
Why do people want to invent new words when there are already existing
ones with the exact meaning that you want?
If I see Monoid I know what it is, if I didn't know I could just look
on Wikipedia.
If I see Appendable I can guess what it might be, but exactly what does it mean?

  -- Lennart

On Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM, John Goerzen <jgoerzen at complete.org> wrote:
> Hi folks,
> Don Stewart noticed this blog post on Haskell by Brian Hurt, an OCaml
> hacker:
> http://enfranchisedmind.com/blog/2009/01/15/random-thoughts-on-haskell/
> It's a great post, and I encourage people to read it.  I'd like to
> highlight one particular paragraph:
>  One thing that does annoy me about Haskell- naming. Say you've
>  noticed a common pattern, a lot of data structures are similar to
>  the difference list I described above, in that they have an empty
>  state and the ability to append things onto the end. Now, for
>  various reasons, you want to give this pattern a name using on
>  Haskell's tools for expressing common idioms as general patterns
>  (type classes, in this case). What name do you give it? I'd be
>  inclined to call it something like "Appendable". But no, Haskell
>  calls this pattern a "Monoid". Yep, that's all a monoid is-
>  something with an empty state and the ability to append things to
>  the end. Well, it's a little more general than that, but not
>  much. Simon Peyton Jones once commented that the biggest mistake
>  Haskell made was to call them "monads" instead of "warm, fluffy
>  things". Well, Haskell is exacerbating that mistake. Haskell
>  developers, stop letting the category theorists name
>  things. Please. I beg of you.
> I'd like to echo that sentiment!
> He went on to add:
>  If you?re not a category theorists, and you're learning (or thinking
>  of learning) Haskell, don't get scared off by names like "monoid" or
>  "functor". And ignore anyone who starts their explanation with
>  references to category theory- you don't need to know category
>  theory, and I don't think it helps.
> I'd echo that one too.
> -- John
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