cryptolinguistics – well said!

From Matt Blaze’s blog:

We often say that researchers break poor security systems and that feats of cryptanalysis involve cracking codes. As natural and dramatic as this shorthand may be, it propagates a subtle and insidious fallacy that confuses discovery with causation. Unsound security systems are “broken” from the start, whether we happen to know about it yet or not. But we talk (and write) as if the people who investigate and warn us of flaws are responsible for having put them there in the first place.

Words matter, and I think this sloppy language has had a small, but very real, corrosive effect on progress in the field. It implicitly taints even the most mainstream security research with a vaguely disreputable, suspect tinge. How to best disclose newly found vulnerabilities raises enough difficult questions by itself; let’s try to avoid phrasing that inadvertently blames the messenger before we even learn the message.

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“Political Correctness” and English Grammar

My all time favorite comment, regarding usage of indefinite pronouns, appears at the bottom of this article:

“All right, I’m only going to say this once: ‘He’ is the singular indefinite pronoun in English (“if a person drinks too much, he will likely experience a hangover”). ‘He’ also happens to be the masculine personal pronoun.

‘She’ is the singular pronoun of personification in English (“if England fails to advance America’s foreign-policy ambitions, she will suffer terrible consequences”). ‘She’ also happens to be the feminine personal pronoun.

Confusing the two exhibits not a warm-and-fuzzy concern for the inclusion of women so much as a writer’s or speaker’s ignorance. Using the feminine personal pronoun as an indefinite article is as moronic as using the masculine personal pronoun for personification. Thus the captain greets us: “Welcome to my ship. Isn’t he splendid?”

Give it up, people. It’s not thoughtful; it’s just illiterate.”