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Python Essential Reference 4th Ed.

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Book Reviews 94

stoolpigeon writes "It has been ten years since David Beazley wrote the first edition of Python Essential Reference. The book has proven itself as a valuable resource to Python developers and has been kept current over those ten years, with the fourth edition coming at an interesting time for Python. Python 3 was a major release that broke backwards compatibility. Python 3 has been around for a year now. That said, the current download page at the official Python site states, 'If you don't know which version to use, start with Python 2.6.4; more existing third party software is compatible with Python 2 than Python 3 right now.' Beazley, in keeping with the pragmatic roots of a reference that sticks to what is 'essential,' has removed the coverage on features from 2 that were removed from 3. At the same time, the primary focus for new features that came with 3 is limited to those that have been back-ported to 2. This approach, born out of a desire to keep the reference relevant, provides a blended approach that is above all else practical." Read on for the rest of JR's review.The end result of that choice is a reference document consisting of those parts of Python that are shared between versions 2 and 3. This is a significant portion of the language and I think this approach is really what will give this reference more traction than many of the other guides that focus purely on 3. I think that those are valuable and over time the balance will shift but as of right now, for a little while to come, this book takes the most realistic approach. That feels very fuzzy, but I have no idea how long it will be until Python 3 truly is the dominant version and Python 2 is truly put to bed.

If I had to guess how Beazley's Python Essential Reference has held in there over the years, the key would be that there is a lot of what a developer needs and very little of what she doesn't need. There is a twenty-four page tutorial introduction, but this is not a guide on how to program or how to use Python for beginners. An experienced programmer could probably use this reference to shift to Python as a new language, but someone completely new to writing code would probably not want to start here. A quick look at the table of contents shows that an explanation of the language itself is covered in under 200 pages. Extending and embedding Python also get their own section, but close to 400 pages is given to the Python library.

An inevitable question is what one will gain with this reference over the online documentation. A good example to see how things vary is to look at chapter nineteen, Operating System Services and the online documentation for Generic Operating System Services. The online documentation is very thorough, and covers each piece of the library starting with os and io, building from there. While every facet is documented much of it is rather brief. For example section 16.2.3. Raw File I/O is a very straightforward listing of the very low level functionality available via io.FileIO. In contrast, looking at the 3.1.1 Docs for Raw IO shows that parameters for FileIO changed with that version. Looking to the documentation for 2.7a1 Raw File I/O shows that these changes are being back-ported to Python 2.

In Python Essential Reference none of this hunting down changes and checking to see if they are coming to 2 are necessary. Beazley shows them in his documentation. This is the strength of his choice on how to handle these types of situations. On top of that, Beazley provides more than the online documents by including four paragraphs of additional information on Raw I/O and when its use is appropriate. This added content is probably available googling around for it, but then I have to take the time to check dates on posts to see if things are still current and in general just hope that things are accurate. I have never read a technical book that was completely error free, and there are probably at the very least some typos in Python Essential Reference, though I haven't caught any of them on my read through or use of the book yet. But the important thing is that I don't expect the book to be perfect, rather I value it for being a known quantity. I am aware of just when the material was compiled, who put it together and I have it all in one place.errno symbols is not exhaustive and oddly enough is not ordered alphabetically. Beazley provides two lists for errno symbols. They are provided in alphabetical order, have a description and are grouped as POSIX error codes and Windows error codes. A quick glance at these tables in a skimming of the book might lead one to believe that this is just a simple quick grab from already available sources, but that isn't the case. There is real value added even here.

The index is solid. It would seem that one should be able to take this for granted with a technical reference but I've seen some sad exceptions. Between the thorough index and the detailed table of contents I've never had to spend more than a few seconds looking for what I need. This is the result of those tools as well as the fact that this is not an exhaustive reference. After initially reading through the book for this review, I've taken some time just to use it day to day, as I doubt many will be reading it from front to back. I don't use Python professionally. I'm purely a hobbyist when it comes to programming, but I've found that if I want to get the most out of the time I do have to play with personal projects, I want this book close. I'm not cranking out code that fast to begin with and so I need all the help I can get. I've found that Beazley seems to have hit that sweet spot where he gives enough information to get me where I need to be without bogging down in too many details or the things that I just don't need to know. I imagine this proper balance of information is due to Beazley's extensive experience with Python and that of Noah Gift the technical editor for the book.

I've mentioned repeatedly that I approve of how the shift between Python 2 and 3 has been handled. Beazley hasn't completely integrated everything and left some of the unique new features of 3 out in the cold. There is an appendix that deals specifically with Python 3. It is short but does have some value. New features, common pitfalls for those making the move from 2 to 3 and how to run both at the same time in a single environment are covered. This is helpful and keeps my desk a little neater, though I think if I were going to be spending extensive time working with Python 3 then I would probably want to have another reference on hand.

If you are a week-end hacker like me, or someone that is writing Python on the clock, I think that this compact reference is very useful. I don't have any trouble running across huge technical books that do come in handy for any project that requires something heavy. I also see a lot of little books that seem to be quickly produced summaries of what is already out there, spending most of their short content on fluff. Every so often though, someone hits that sweet spot of concise usefulness. Beazley did this with Python Essential Reference and this new edition continues that history in strong fashion.

You can purchase Python Essential Reference 4th Ed. from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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The Index (5, Interesting)

1729 (581437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835734)

The index is solid. It would seem that one should be able to take this for granted with a technical reference but I've seen some sad exceptions.

I think that Beazley generated the index himself with a Python script. I took an employer-sponsored class from him recently, and he was particularly proud of the new book's index.

Essentially, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835740)

,use PHP

(ed note: this is an experiment to see if this gets modded troll, or modded funny, let's find out)

Re:Essentially, (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840718)

Which one is it that uses your breathing patterns as you type it indicate the control logic? You may be right.

Re:Essentially, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30846688)

Which one gets different result types on these two operations: " 2"+2 and "2"+2? He may be wrong!

Re:Essentially, (1)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 4 years ago | (#30844502)

You have been tagged troll not because of what you think, but because the way you say it. Huge difference.

What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835742)

"If I had to guess how Beazley's Python Essential Reference has held in there over the years, the key would be that there is a lot of what a developer needs and very little of what she doesn't need."

I know it's considered fashionable to worship at the altar of political correctness, but for grammatical correctness, one should always use a masculine pronoun when the gender is mixed or unknown. Also, the last occurrence of the word "need" is redundant.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835988)

Speaking of political correctness...

Why do knee growes always have tinted windows? They don't, it's the black rubbing off.
When four fags walk into a gay bar but the bartender has only one barstool left, what's he do? He turns the barstool upside-down.
How was copper wiring invented? By two Jews fighting over a penny.
Why are there no Mexican Olympics? All the spics who can run, swim, and jump are already in the USA.
What do you say to a woman with two black eyes? Nothing, you already told her twice.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (2, Interesting)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836042)

Why should one use a masculine pronoun? I understand that it's the historically normal usage, but that implies nothing about what we should do. The writer's meaning is clear. What other consideration is relevant?

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (2, Insightful)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837296)

Good reason would be because the vast majority of the people being referred to are men. I wouldn't expect to find lots of masculine pronouns in nursing or child care when referring to the nurses or day care workers or in man-hating feminist diatribes when referring to feminists.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1, Interesting)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836508)

...one should always use a masculine pronoun when the gender is mixed or unknown. Also, the last occurrence of the word "need" is redundant.

Actually, many varieties of English prefer "their" when the gender is mixed or unknown. "He" or "he or she" is probably something your English teacher forced on you instead (although there may be people who natively prefer it).

Of course, your English teacher forced it on you because self-appointed grammar "experts" and prescriptivists demand it in formal language, so it's kind of a double-edged sword: sound stifled and use "he," "he or she," or the potentially too-PC "she" because you know the antecedent is singular, or use "they" and do what most speakers say naturally but risk being caught by a self-proclaimed grammar maven or sounding insufficiently formal for the occasion.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836712)

"Their" is plural, fuckwit.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836790)

"Their" is plural, fuckwit.

And if the user is unknown, but then turns out to be female, then "his" is just plain wrong, fuckwit.

only sometimes (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836938)

"Their" is plural, fuckwit.

As the GP noted, "they," is often used to refer to a single person, particularly in cases where gender is ambiguous, and that this is variable across dialects of English. Such use has been present in English for a long time, too.

It turns out that language is a bit more complicated than your grammar school teacher told you. It doesn't always cleave to simple, clear cut rules. The GP poster tried to point this out, but apparently the matter is a bit too complex for your youthful mind. Perhaps in a few years, once you've graduated middle school and seen a bit of the world, you'll move to a more sophisticated understanding of the world and its phenomena.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30839426)

Strictly speaking it is. But it's common usage, at least in some dialects, to refer to a person of unknown gender.

Perhaps this is because the plural form is neuter anyway?

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30840182)

It is plural, except when it isn't: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they [wikipedia.org]

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | more than 4 years ago | (#30857002)

No, "their" is plural in Standard English. That was my point: in the *actual* English spoken by many, perhaps even most speakers, "their" is a perfectly acceptable way of referring to singular antecedents--in fact, it is *the* way to do so when the gender is unknown.

Before you call people naughty words, you should learn a thing or two about descriptive versus prescriptive grammar (i.e., actual usage versus whatever self-appointed experts say people "should" do for whatever reason) and maybe take a linguistics class.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (2, Insightful)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837018)

I generally refer to code monkeys as 'it'.
As in 'Look it has messed up that trivial bit of Python as well'.

Donning my asbestos underpants.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840214)

Yes, that's correct, particularly when referring to web developers and gui programmers.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30846472)

Web developers and gui programmers aren't real code monkeys. You can tell because they actually give a shit about the end user.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30846420)

That hardly seems fair...associating innocent monkeys with coders.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (3, Funny)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837806)

When political correctness is required I usually combine "she", "he", and "it" in a single pronoun. As in "shit is politically correct".

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840152)

Well I laughed.

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#30838404)

I wonder if the person who wrote that is female.

One of the proposed rules for unknown pronouns is that the writer uses a pronoun that agrees with his/her own sex. Thus, in the phrase "what X needs" where X is an unknown third person singular, a woman would write "what she needs" and a man would write "what he needs".

David Weber uses this rule consistently in his fiction. A female character will even say something like "we don't know what the average woman-on-the-street thinks" rather than "man-on-the-street".

P.S. I think political correctness made a travesty out of the opening narration from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The original "where no man has gone before" clearly was using "man" in the sense of "member of humanity", or "human being". The new text, "where no one has gone before", carries with it the assumption that all those aliens out there living on those planets don't count; they aren't "anyone". Thus a desire to be PC caused a perfectly neutral statement to become offensively humanocentrically chauvinistic. It is only one short step from there to a new "Manifest Destiny", with the Federation becoming an evil expansionist empire. Such is the power of words! [1]

Does anyone seriously think that "mankind" only refers to the male half of humanity? (Sadly, I'm almost certain that some hard-core feminists would take that position, and argue for "humankind" or some such.)

[1] Tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but I have met people who might seriously advance this argument. Of course those same people also jump all over any words they deem sexist. I think we would all be better off if we were less upset over mere words.

steveha

Re:What SHE doesn't need? Really now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841156)

Did you understand what the author said?
If so, screw grammatical correctness. They got the point across in a different manner while creating absolutely no confusion, its not a big deal.

By the way, your panties are in a bunch. You may want to fix that.

she? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835778)

"the key would be that there is a lot of what a developer needs and very little of what she doesn't need"

Really? You chose a feminine pronoun to describe python developers? I can only guess the reviewer is female or is a "political-correctness" fanatic. Either way, poor choice.

Re:she? (0, Redundant)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836002)

No, it's a good choice.

It's one of the many sexist pathologies of English that the male third person pronoun is used to indicate a generic third person. Using a female third person pronoun in a place where the context is obviously gender neutral highlights that pathology without sacrificing any meaning.

That it pisses you off indicates only that the pathology exists. This technique has existed for more than a decade in the humanities, and once you get used to it, it's as unnoticeable as 'he/him'--in other words, once that pathology has been exposed and turned off.

This is a far better way to remove a bit of useless baggage from the language than haranguing people to be PC or accusing them of being sexist. It just moves on to a better usage, and if that bothers you, it's only because you're trying to hang on to the old sexist trope.

Re:she? (1, Troll)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836150)

No, it's a good choice.

It's one of the many sexist pathologies of English that the male third person pronoun is used to indicate a generic third person. Using a female third person pronoun in a place where the context is obviously gender neutral highlights that pathology without sacrificing any meaning.

That it pisses you off indicates only that the pathology exists. This technique has existed for more than a decade in the humanities, and once you get used to it, it's as unnoticeable as 'he/him'--in other words, once that pathology has been exposed and turned off.

This is a far better way to remove a bit of useless baggage from the language than haranguing people to be PC or accusing them of being sexist. It just moves on to a better usage, and if that bothers you, it's only because you're trying to hang on to the old sexist trope.

It would be far better to create and use a new and actually gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun. I like that better than pretending that the assumption of a feminine subject is somehow far less sexist than the assumption of a masculine subject. The latter is a rather puerile form of hypocrisy because reverse sexism is still sexism, a fact that must be acknowledged if you view the eradication of sexism as a worthy goal. That hypocrisy, the willful blindness to it, and the exhibition of both while telling others what they should do is the only baggage I see here.

Re:she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836174)

Or we could just use the singular "they" which has been in use for hundreds of years. Yes, hundreds. Prescriptivists can go piss up a rope.

Re:she? (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837308)

Or we could just use the singular "they" which has been in use for hundreds of years. Yes, hundreds. Prescriptivists can go piss up a rope.

"They" is inherently plural, just like "we" is inherently plural when using the first-person. You might feel a need to make it bleedin' obvious, but what you point out was implied by my initial post; it is why I was very specific about limiting my comment to the utility of a new, third-person singular pronoun that is gender-neutral. "They" is often understood to have the meaning that you ascribe to it, but adapting a plural term for a certain implied singular usage is a less than elegant solution.

Perhaps one could also use the word "one" as a substitute for the he/she/they pronouns.

Singular "they" (1)

Kaseijin (766041) | more than 4 years ago | (#30839068)

"They" is inherently plural, just like "we" is inherently plural when using the first-person. You might feel a need to make it bleedin' obvious, but what you point out was implied by my initial post; it is why I was very specific about limiting my comment to the utility of a new, third-person singular pronoun that is gender-neutral. "They" is often understood to have the meaning that you ascribe to it, but adapting a plural term for a certain implied singular usage is a less than elegant solution.

Nothing about any word is inherent. "You" started out plural, was adopted for the formal singular, and long ago displaced "thou" as the informal singular. Now there are even new plural forms, such as "y'all".

English already has a neuter third-person singular pronoun, but for some reason it's considered rude to call a person "it", except in certain constructions.

Perhaps one could also use the word "one" as a substitute for the he/she/they pronouns.

Does one care if one's audience considers one a pedant?

Re:she? (0, Offtopic)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836326)

As a short term corrective, using "she" instead of "he" is remarkably effective at making people conscious of the issue. As a long term corrective, the use of "they", as the AC below notes, is optimal.

Re:she? (0, Offtopic)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836372)

I'll add that it's impressive how sensitive men are to issues of sexism and gender discrimination when they perceive themselves to be the victims.

Re:she? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836426)

I, the knight in shiny armours, always fight the ugly creature called sexism, so that I can get laid.

Re:she? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836586)

Even if they are sensitive, why can't they be? Is this something that only women are allowed to be?

You can't go around for decades telling men they're doing things wrong and then and do what they do and expect no one to say anything and if that doesn't make much sense then I refer you to this link: http://www.google.com/dictionary?aq=f&langpair=en [google.com] |en&q=hypocrite&hl=en

Re:she? (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837164)

As you so ably illustrate with your borked link, it's the hypocrisy of it, since men were (and are, here on ./) largely oblivious to sexism directed at women.

Re:she? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837730)

Actually, woman are pretty oblivious to sexism agianst men as well.

Re:she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836730)

Do you realize just how sexist your comment is?

Re:she? (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837200)

Thank you for illustrating my point.

Re:she? (1)

sagematt (1251956) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837094)

I'll add that it's impressive how sensitive men are to issues of sexism and gender discrimination when they perceive themselves to be the victims.

We are delicate flowers.

I agree completely (1)

malp (108885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837202)

I agree completely (cancer is horrible). I don't understand why men (most cancers are preventable) take such offense (and can be detected early) to someone (if you stop smoking today, you could increase your life expectancy by 15%) putting off-topic (I like cats) subtle (I really like cats) messages in their prose.

Re:she? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837774)

Please don't stereotype, it's just so sexist.

Re:she? (1, Offtopic)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836422)

It would be far better to create and use a new and actually gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun

I suggest "e" - it has all the benefits of he/she, plus it rhymes so that porting existing music would not be difficult!

"no e can't read my poker face"

P-p-p-poker face p-p-poker face...

Re:she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30838016)

Except you chose a song where the gender is the whole point of the song--specifically, she's with a guy but thinking about a girl.

Re:she? (3, Insightful)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836780)

It would be far better to create and use a new and actually gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun...

Good luck with that. Pronouns are an example what linguists refer to as grammatical (as opposed to lexical) categories. One way in which grammatical classes are different from lexical categories is that they are generally a "closed" class, meaning they do not readily admit new members. You can make up new nouns, verbs, and adjectives (lexical categories) at will, but if you try to invent, for example, a new preposition (a grammatical category), it probably won't catch on (and you'll sound funny, if not unintelligible). And since pronouns are also a grammatical class, you guessed it: same thing. Of course, grammatical classes do change, but it's normally at a significantly slower rate.

Additionally, many people already have this base covered with "they"--while Standard English hasn't (yet?) accepted it, it's certainly a part of the (actual) English of many speakers.

ve! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30840060)

the sci fi authors already did.

ve walked down the street.
ve slaped ver for looking at ver wood for too long.

(nope vim was out of question, nobody needs to go down that route anymore. ;)

Re:she? (2, Informative)

billius (1188143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837246)

No, it's a good choice.

It's one of the many sexist pathologies of English that the male third person pronoun is used to indicate a generic third person. Using a female third person pronoun in a place where the context is obviously gender neutral highlights that pathology without sacrificing any meaning.

That it pisses you off indicates only that the pathology exists. This technique has existed for more than a decade in the humanities, and once you get used to it, it's as unnoticeable as 'he/him'--in other words, once that pathology has been exposed and turned off.

This is a far better way to remove a bit of useless baggage from the language than haranguing people to be PC or accusing them of being sexist. It just moves on to a better usage, and if that bothers you, it's only because you're trying to hang on to the old sexist trope.

It would be far better to create and use a new and actually gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun. I like that better than pretending that the assumption of a feminine subject is somehow far less sexist than the assumption of a masculine subject. The latter is a rather puerile form of hypocrisy because reverse sexism is still sexism, a fact that must be acknowledged if you view the eradication of sexism as a worthy goal. That hypocrisy, the willful blindness to it, and the exhibition of both while telling others what they should do is the only baggage I see here.

It does exist and it's called the "generic they." I realize it pisses off quite a few of the grammar purists, but everyone from Shakespeare to Jane Austin to Mark Twain to George Bernard Shaw has used it. Consider the sentence "Nobody in their right mind would do a thing like that." Going purely by how it sounds to me, "Nobody in his right mind would do a thing like that" sounds outdated (like it's from a movie from the 50s) and "Nobody in her right mind would do a thing like that." sits about as well with my ears as spelling "women" as "womyn" does with my eyes. I think part of the problem with the sentence in question ("the key would be that there is a lot of what a developer needs and very little of what she doesn't need") is that saying such a thing using a singular form is awkward in and of itself. This book is written for all Python developers, so it sounds much more natural to me to say "the key would be that there is a lot of what developers need and very little of what they don't need." The bottom line is that using either pronoun generically sounds unnatural to me unless we're talking about a situation where only one gender can be involved (eg pregnancy for women, circumcision for men).

PS If you think English has sexist pathologies, you won't want to learn Spanish ("ellas" is plural feminine, "ellos is plural masculine, but for some reason a group of 200 women with one guy is still "ellos") or German (the generic pronoun is "man," although they're starting to use "frau" (women) in situations that only apply to women like pregnancy).

Re:she? (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837798)

"Nobody in his right mind would do a thing like that" sounds outdated

To you, perhaps. To me, it sounds like I'm talking to someone who knows English grammar. The "generic they" is just plain wrong by modern English standards.

Re:she? (2, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30838660)

To you, perhaps. To me, it sounds like I'm talking to someone who knows English grammar. The "generic they" is just plain wrong by modern English standards.

Language is defined by how native language speakers actually speak it, not by what purists (and dictionaries that they write) think it should be.

Re:she? (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30935522)

Language is defined by how native language speakers actually speak it, not by what purists (and dictionaries that they write) think it should be.

I am a native language speaker. What makes your opinion of what English should be more valid than mine?

Re:she? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30935896)

I am a native language speaker. What makes your opinion of what English should be more valid than mine?

Nothing (particularly as I'm not a native English speaker), but I haven't even claimed any particular opinion on this.

Quite obviously, one can (almost) never claim 100% acceptance, so we go by what the majority thinks is good enough. If your opinion is in the minority, then, yes, it's less valid. And it should be noted that one doesn't need the majority to take the "this is how I speak" position; merely accepting the variant as valid is good enough.

That said, I do not know if "singular they" is mainstream in English or not. I definitely see it a lot online, and much of that is posted by native speakers (judging by their location, at least), but this is obviously anecdotal.

Re:she? (1)

hjrnunes (1135957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30838236)

you won't want to learn Spanish ("ellas" is plural feminine, "ellos is plural masculine, but for some reason a group of 200 women with one guy is still "ellos")

It's the same with Portuguese. And the reason for it is that there isn't a neutral gender in either languages. You have either Masculine gender or Feminine gender. Now what I would like explained is why the Feminine gender is better than Masculine when what you really want is neutrality... My personal view is that changing or mixing both is nonsense. Right now, only the plural masculine is ambiguous - it's either a group of men women or both, although in the vast majority of cases, context provides that information or it just doesn't matter. On the other hand, the gender of the noun for "person" is feminine in both languages so that sexism crap is just what it is: useless crap.

Re:she? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840648)

in the vast majority of cases, context provides that information or it just doesn't matter.

But that requires common sense! You can't do the with XSLT. How am I supposeed to code that?

On the other hand, the gender of the noun for "person" is feminine in both languages so that sexism crap is just what it is: useless crap.

Well, it's a grammatical convention that goes back to [vulgar] Latin, the same way inanimate objects are male or female too. But it's something English speakers find odd to be sure, because we generally use biological gender.

Re:she? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30838756)

or German (the generic pronoun is "man,"

At least they do differentiate the two: man and Mann. And there's a difference in emphasis as well.

Re:she? (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837318)

It would be far better to create and use a new and actually gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun.

We already have an "actually gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun": "it". Why should we make up a new word when there is a perfectly servicable one just waiting to be used?

Re:she? (1)

ralphbecket (225429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840112)

It would be far better to create and use a new and actually gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun.

Back in the early nineties a bunch of PC fanatics tried this out and came up with such gems as 'sie' (he/she), 'hir' (her/his). The same crowd also tried introducing words such as 'waitron' (waiter/waitress). It always amazed me that people could do this with a straight face.

Re:she? (0, Troll)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836182)

It's one of the many sexist pathologies of English that the male third person pronoun is used to indicate a generic third person.

I know. It's extremely sexist against men. Women get their own, unambiguous pronoun, while us men have to settle for "he" which could be referring to a woman. Stop the sexism, give men their own unambiguous pronoun.

Re:she? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836294)

It's one of the many sexist pathologies of English that the male third person pronoun is used to indicate a generic third person.

So you replace one pathology with another. Well done.
In Capitalism, man exploits man. In Socialism, it’s exactly the opposite.

Re:she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30838298)

In Capitalism, man exploits man. In Socialism, it’s exactly the opposite.

YOU MUST BE A DEMOCRAT, YOU WRITE 93% SOCIALISTIC.

Re:she? (1)

blueskies (525815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836404)

How exactly is using she less sexist than using he? Isn't that still giving preference to a sex?

Re:she? (0, Troll)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836472)

"He" is the less sexist one, and anyone who disagrees, I'll puch them in the face.

Re:she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837374)

Bring it, you mincing little faggot.

Re:she? (1)

DocHoncho (1198543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840370)

"He" is the less sexist one, and anyone who disagrees, I'll puch(sic) him in the face.

There, FTFY

Re:she? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30893992)

Guess the irony doesn't quite come through.

Re:she? (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836644)

It's not. It's also far more distracting than other choices.

He--I get why people want to phase this out, but at least it's a well understood convention.

They--This seems to be the popular choice for a 3rd person pronoun of indefinite gender. I'd rather we get a new word, but it works pretty well and is used very widely in informal speech and writing. I say we make it official.

She--Worst choice of the three by far. Every time I (and, I'm sure, most people who are used to the other two better options) read it used this way my mind automatically starts trying to figure out who in particular the author is talking about. Besides, it validates the use of "he" in this role and leaves us with two words doing the same job. It's the most confusing and broken solution of the three, easily.

Re:she? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836512)

They is often used as a neutral reference to people. Using she to reference a group of people that are by far mainly male just stinks of shoving PC thinking in people's face.

It would be the same as referencing Africans as white people. White Africans do indeed exist but the majority aren't so why would you use a white person to represent a black majority?

Re:she? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836716)

no, its not the same.

The "correct" English term is to use the masculine if there is at least 1 man in the group. ie, the masculine takes precedence. (or as my female english teacher taught me, "in English, he embraces she").

Other languages are the same - French for example will use il if there's a man in a group of women, elle is only used to denote an exclusively female group.

You can say its wrong, you can say its just the usual male misogyny toward females. The truth is that we use the masculine to denote both men and everyone. We use the term 'mankind' to refer to us all, women included. Its the girls who have it lucky - at least they get a term just for themselves, us poor blokes have to make do with the generic term.

Sexist against men, that's what it is. We demand mens liberation from the oppression by the female grammar nazis! Or we could just use the language the way its evolved/designed; then you, me and all womankind (hmm, did I mean that to include men or just to make a PC language point? you just don't know) will be happier.

Re:she? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840210)

The "correct" English term is to use the masculine if there is at least 1 man in the group. ie, the masculine takes precedence. (or as my female english teacher taught me, "in English, he embraces she").

You forgot that English has a neuter.

So when referring to a group consisting of ladies, fish and gentlemen should one use "they/them/their", "they/them/their" or "they/them/their"?

Re:she? (3, Informative)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837036)

Putting on my linguist's hat here (yes, I do have a degree in it, thanks), languages don't have pathologies. They have grammars, and those grammars have rules. Rules which tend to change over time and often to be inconsistent between dialects (cf., Old English Vs. modern standard British English, and modern standard British English Vs. modern standard US English), but at any given point in time, the grammar rules intrinsically known by native speakers are a very good guide as to what is correct or not correct in a language.

The current English rule is that "he" is the generic personal pronoun. A drift to "they" may be occurring (or it may be a fad; too early to tell) and using "she" has a certain amount of traction in some quarters and the language may change such that whether to use "he" or "she" is at the discretion of the speaker, with either being correct. However, as it currently stands, usages other than "he" in a context that is not exclusively female (one I frequently encounter myself, since all of my children are girls) is formally incorrect.

As others have noted, the use of "he" for a group that is not exclusively female is just as sexist (or not) as the use of "he" is for a group that is not exclusively male. Claiming that the use of "he" as the generic instead of "she" is sexist only reveals your own bias.

Re:she? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840396)

A drift to "they" may be occurring (or it may be a fad; too early to tell)

Bof. Perhaps we have different definitions of a fad, but I used to get pinged for at at school 30 years ago for it, and I sure didn't invent it myself.

However, as it currently stands, usages other than "he" in a context that is not exclusively female (one I frequently encounter myself, since all of my children are girls) is formally incorrect.

Perhaps there is some obscure rule that I'm (without your awesome linguist degree) unaware of that concerns Siamese twins. Because "he" is strictly singular, so it can no more be applied to a group than "she" can. In English "they" is plural, for any combination of cocks, frocks and rocks.

Re:she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837310)

How's that Women's Studies degree working out for you?

Re:she? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30839572)

It's one of the many sexist pathologies of English

French has a similar thing. A group of schoolgirls are elles, a group of schoolboys are ils. But one boy in mixed class - it's ils.

That's just how it goes. It probably dates back to the middle ages when it mattered how hard you could swing a sword. Consequently, better to offend girls by calling them boys than the other way round.

Re:she? (1)

mannd (841376) | more than 4 years ago | (#30872384)

It's funny that people who get upset about using he as a generic pronoun probably don't care a bit when a group of people of both sexes (or even all females) is referred to as "you guys."

Re:she? (1)

sagematt (1251956) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836564)

Bah, Python is for girls anyways. Everybody knows that PERL is the language of true men.

Re:she? (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30838704)

Bah, Python is for girls anyways. Everybody knows that PERL is the language of true men.

Actually, C is the language of true men (it's got dangling pointers in it, duh).

Re:she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30840562)

I believe Pascal has pointers too, but they don't dangle.

Re:she? (3, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836944)

What's going on here?

I clicked on this topic because I wanted to read multiple long flamewars about indentation, whitespace and programming syntax. But no: Instead, all I see is a bunch of arguments about pronoun gender.

Re:she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30839466)

You came to slashdot to watch a bunch of insecure geeks wallow in irrelevance and wave their e-peen around and that's what you got.

Re:she? (1)

influenza (138942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30840470)

I'm pretty sure that 90% of /. is somewhere on the aspergers syndrome. 74 comments when I loaded the page, and I had to scroll down the last 10 or so to read any that weren't about the reviewer's choice in pronouns.

Re:she? (2, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#30838182)

I'm definitely not female. I'm pretty sure my wife will vouch for me on that.

I'm not a "political-correctness" fanatic either. I pick the things I'm fanatical about and pretty much none of those things are political in any fashion.

It's been a bit since I wrote the review. I don't labor over these for days or anything. I usually knock them out in a couple hours or so. So I don't actually remember putting 'she' in there. It might have been a mistake. I do the original in google docs and I don't think it does any auto-correction so maybe not. Or I might have been thinking of my daughter and done it subconsciously. We've done python together working through "Hello World!".

Right now the phrase that's coming to mind is tempest in a teapot -- but I'm probably using that incorrectly too.

Python in a Nutshell (2, Interesting)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835816)

O'Reilly's Nutshell series have become rather inconsistent. Java series particularly I found useless waste of tree, but the Python one by Martelli was very good, complements the online doc very well.

Would be good to compare this title with Martelli's.

Re:Python in a Nutshell (2, Informative)

sproingie (1690772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835938)

ORA's own titles have in general become really quite regrettable. Their "Hacks" series is particularly dreadful, but even the animal books are just not what they used to be.

Manning's "In Action" series on the other hand has shown consistently high quality for every title I've picked up, particularly when it comes to Java.

Re:Python in a Nutshell (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836442)

I've personally found Manning's books to be a bit too wordy with poor examples.

For standard Java, I don't think Core Java volume 1 & 2 can be beat. I've not been entirely pleased with any books on Java frameworks so I've mainly used the net to pick up Spring but it would be nice to have a really nice reference book purely because I prefer reading books than computer screens for serious stuff.

Re:Python in a Nutshell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30844416)

ORA's own titles have in general become really quite regrettable. Their "Hacks" series is particularly dreadful, but even the animal books are just not what they used to be.

Having contributed to one of the "Hacks" series it doesn't surprise me why quality has gone down so much at ORA. Wrote a few sections for them as a pre-draft version, didn't hear from them afterward (after multiple requests from my side) so I assumed the book was postponed.

Months later the book was out (to my surprise) and contained the text I sent them. No contribution, no copyright, no nothing. Basically they used my work without even coordinating it with me. I'd have gone after them if I wasn't so embarrassed at the quality. Last time I'll have anything to do with ORA. Pity, because all the crap they push out hide the gems they had (and have).

Posted anonymously, for obvious reasons.

Alex Martelli, where is 3rd edition of PiaN? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835902)

Alex, where stands "Python in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition" ??

I'll definitely buy a copy of David Beazley's "Python Essential Reference, 4th Ed." But, I'm also looking forward to PiaN 3rd Ed.

Ordered this the other day (2, Interesting)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836370)

I had this on Safari Books Online for awhile and I finding myself enjoying it so I opted for a real copy which should show up tomorrow.

I would definitely say it's one of the best reference books I've seen in awhile.

Code books in general seem to be lacking these days. Often they cut out the code and just chuck it on a disk. The reason I bought the book is because I want to see the code on paper and importantly right beside the relevant text that I'm reading.

In my opinion the Python Essential Reference has a decent balance between examples and the author speaking and it was only £18 which, imo isn't that bad.

Re:Ordered this the other day (1)

rrwood (27261) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841242)

I snagged an illicit copy and was so impressed that I bought the real thing and wrote Beazley a letter telling how much I liked the book....

Everyone knows... (4, Funny)

sootman (158191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836446)

... all PHP coders are secretly py-curious.

Monty Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836532)

Am I the only one who thought this had something to do with Monty Python when I read the link description?

sigh....I really need to get a life....

Re:Monty Python (1)

ShatteredArm (1123533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836798)

No, you're not. I logged in just so I can make this same comment. I guess I've been working in .NET for too long...

Re:Monty Python (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30838774)

No, you're not. I logged in just so I can make this same comment. I guess I've been working in .NET for too long

Not long enough [codeplex.com] , apparently.

Re:Monty Python (1)

ShatteredArm (1123533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30839470)

What I meant to say is that any reference to the Python language is meaningless to me without the word "Iron" appended to the front.

Re:Monty Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30840472)

You're a fucking homo

Re:Monty Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842590)

You're a retard.

Re:Monty Python (2, Informative)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837204)

As I'm sure everyone knows Python is named after Monty Python so in a way it does.
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