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Re: Info tutorial is out of date

From: Robert J. Chassell
Subject: Re: Info tutorial is out of date
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2006 12:49:18 +0000 (UTC)

        In English, "shortcut" usually carries connotations of
        something naughty.

    Not in my English, it doesn't. Maybe that's the problem. Not in
    American English (to my knowledge); it does not. As with any word,
    it *can* carry a connotation of naughtiness, depending on the

That is a difference.  I was born an American, am an American, and
grew up learning American English.  When I was young, I used shortcuts
frequently.  Their use meant crossing others' fields and empty lots.
As a child I got away with a lot, but I learned that I was not
supposed to cross others' property without their permission.

You had a different experience than me.  It is closer to the original
American experience (in the states I know of).

In England, the presumption was that you were forbidden to walk or
hunt on others' property without permission.  In contrast,
traditionally, in the states I know of in the US, you could walk and
hunt on others' property so long as you were not visibly forbidden.
This is just the opposite of the English law.

Thus, in the US, you were legally permitted to cross a vacant lot so
long as it lacked `no tresspassing' signs.  My sense is that over the
past century or so the culture in the US has changed or is changing.
(In many states, the law has not caught up with the culture.)  Your
experience is old.  Mine is an indication of the old English and the
new American culture.

Thus, for many, the word `shortcut' does suggest badness.  

Moreover, it is more effective as a term for badness when a person
does not think of that.  That is to say, the less conscious you are

  * that the metaphor comes from the notion of crossing someone else's
    vacant lot or field, and

  * that in the culture that action is defined as wrong,

then the more useful the word is to a writer who wishes to suggest
that a `shortcut' is somewhat bad without overtly saying so.

A good writer will not even be aware of the reason he picked the word.
It will `fit' his task.

    Robert J. Chassell                         
    address@hidden                         GnuPG Key ID: 004B4AC8
    http://www.rattlesnake.com                  http://www.teak.cc

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