[Haskell-cafe] Comments from OCaml Hacker Brian Hurt

Manuel M T Chakravarty chak at cse.unsw.edu.au
Fri Jan 16 07:22:29 EST 2009

I have to say, I agree with Lennart here.  Terms like monoid have had  
a precise definition for a very long time.  Replacing an ill-defined  
term by a vaguely defined term only serves to avoid facing ones  
ignorance - IMHO an unwise move for a technical expert.  Learning  
Haskell has often been described as a perspective changing, deeply  
enlightening process.  I believe this is because the language and the  
community favours drilling down to the core of a problem and exposing  
its essence in the bright light of mathematical precision.  It would  
be a mistake to give up on that.

We could call lambda abstraction, "name binder", and we could call the  
lambda calculus, "rule system to manipulate name bindings".  That  
would avoid some scary greek.  Would it make functional programming  
any easier?  In contrast, even the planned new C++0x standard uses our  


Ok, ok, they do mutilate the whole idea quite brutally, but the point  
is, we got in their heads.  That counts.

I am all for helping beginners to learn, but I am strongly against  
diluting what is being learnt.  If some of our terminology is a  
problem, we need to explain it better.


Lennart Augustsson:
> Most people don't understand pure functional programming either.  Does
> that mean we should introduce unrestricted side effects in Haskell?
>  -- Lennart
> On Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 4:22 PM, Thomas DuBuisson
> <thomas.dubuisson at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 4:12 PM, Sittampalam, Ganesh
>> <ganesh.sittampalam at credit-suisse.com> wrote:
>>> Lennart Augustsson wrote:
>>>> 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?
>>> I would suggest that having to look things up slows people down
>>> and might distract them from learning other, perhaps more useful,
>>> things about the language.
>> Exactly.  For example, the entry for monoid on Wikipedia starts:
>> "In abstract algebra, a branch of mathematics, a monoid is an
>> algebraic structure with a single, associative binary operation and  
>> an
>> identity element."
>> I've had some set theory, but most programmers I know have not.

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