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Re: Composing sentences makes them hard to translate

From: Göran Uddeborg
Subject: Re: Composing sentences makes them hard to translate
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2006 10:53:14 +0100

Paul Eggert writes:
> True, but how would we fix it?

Wouldn't it be possible to enumerate the objects, just as you do for
the errors?  That is, you would call

    STRTOL_FATAL_ERROR (spec, block_size, e);

where "block_size" is a value in an enumeration type defined in
xstrtol.h similar to strtol_error.  Then you could collect all the
error messages in a two-dimensional table, and do a lookup in the
_STRTOL_ERROR function.  In this way the messages would still be
collected in one place and not very hard to maintain?

> There is a tradeoff here between ease of maintenance and idiomatic
> translations.

I find it slightly surprising, and amusing, that you consider it
acceptable to do the tradeoff.  To explain my point, let me make up an
example.  Assume the function

  absence(const char *who, enum reason)

was meant to give a reason for absence.  The function would do a case
analysis just like _STRTOL_ERROR:

  case ill:  error("%s is ill", who); break;
  case left: error("%s has left for the day", who); break;
  case dead: error("his creator has called %s home", who); break;

Now call this function from different places:

  absence("John", r);
  absence("Richard", r);
  absence("Ann", r);
  absence("I", r);
  absence("they", r);

This would break in the same way as the current implementation of
_STRTOL_ERROR breaks for Swedish and other languages.  (After
translation to Swedish, only the case "dead" would be broken, b.t.w.)

My question of course is:  Would you argue that this breakage is an
acceptable compromise between correct grammar and ease of maintenance?

Now don't get this wrong.  As I said, I am both a bit surprised and a
bit amused.  The question is asked with a friendly smile on my lips.
And it is NOT purely rethorical.  I am indeed curious on your view on
what is reasonable and what is not.

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