back to article Python joins movement to dump 'offensive' master, slave terms

Python creator Guido van Rossum retired as "benevolent dictator for life" in July, but like Michael Corleone in The Godfather III, he's been pulled back in to resolve a debate about politically incorrect language. Like other open source communities, Python's minders have been asked whether they really want to continue using …

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I tend to find that when an organisation reaches the point where such things become a consideration rather than, say, concentrating on achieving the product/service they provide, that's the point where things start to go downhill.

People literally have too much time on their hands if they care about a terminology such as this. What next, blacklist/whitelist being racist? Male/female connectors not including an intersex variant?

Just code the damn thing, nobody's actually bothering to writing code that's both functional and yet subtly racist

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There are lots of hermaphrodite connectors available (e.g. Anderson Power Pole) though perhaps not for higher frequencies.

I just hope this effort is a precursor to some decent laws to protect artificial intelligences from abuse.

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Anonymous Coward

I had to change the terms whitelist and blacklist from an internal server-side application over 15 years ago. Management concern was that if there was an error the message could have been seen by customers and could have caused offence.

I thought it was silly but NBD, I changed it to redlist and greenlist and carried on.

The thing is, they’re only words, but if someone doesn’t like them, find some different words. “Primary” and “secondary”, or whatever, carries the intent just as well.

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Trollface

Just call 'em "Slaster" and "Mave"...

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" “Primary” and “secondary”, or whatever, carries the intent just as well."

Primary and secondary doesn't do that. Perhaps "controller" and "controllee"?

Personally, I think this is a stupid non-issue to raise any kind of fuss about. In the end, though, as a stupid non-issue, it's no more intelligent to fight against changing the terms. My only concern is that whatever terms replace it are both correct and don't coopt a technical term used for similar, but different, purposes, thus causing confusion.

Master/slave has the advantage of being very clear and well-established, eliminating confusion.

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Anonymous Coward

@malle-herbert

Or wife and husband.

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The most common description of this behaviour is "Get woke, go broke".

It's not whether it's a consideration, it's usually when it becomes the consideration, that things go to hell rapidly.

When you're more concerned about offending people than you are about making a good product, it's a losing game. Unless you're an ass, you're not trying to offend people in the first place. And if you do so through ignorance, most people aren't going to be upset.

The people who are upset are the types who get upset by everything. When you see complaints that eating salad is racist, wearing earrings mean you support enslavement of Africans, braiding your hair is a signal that you're a white supremacist, going to a wedding means you think women should be oppressed, etc., you're dealing with people who aren't playing with a full deck.

There are real issues with racism and sexism in the world. Fretting about technical terminology isn't going to change them in the slightest. There are better things to spend time and energy on.

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I could not agree more

There are potentially hundreds of triggers in python. Perhaps the interpreter should explicitly barf on offensive terms used as variable names to prevent users from creating insensitive code. The parser could compare all variable and function names against a blacklist (oops, I meant a condemned word list). Of course, such a list would itself be offensive, so would need to be obscured so that no fragile developers would stumble across it accidentally. Probably best to just ban any recognizable words as a precaution.

Also: Token ring used hermaphroditic connectors at one time. There is a concrete example of another sex.

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Devil

that's the point where things start to go downhill.

ack on the 'downhill'. P.C. and 'hurt feelings' don't belong in tech.

But if they don't like master/slave, how about:

a) dominant / submissive

b) sadist / masochist

c) Tori / Uke (Judo terms. Judo.)

d) Giver / Goatse

e) Boss / You

f) Microsoft / Everyone Else

and so on. heh.

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Happy

Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

Master / Minion !

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"I had to change the terms whitelist and blacklist from an internal server-side application over 15 years ago. [...] I thought it was silly but NBD, I changed it to redlist and greenlist and carried on."

So now your going to upset the Indians and the Hippies?

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I second master / minion

How to better fix a culturally loaded term than to substitute it with a flimsy cultural reference?

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Anonymous Coward

@b bob - Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

I'd like to suggest

President / citizen

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Anonymous Coward

and pushing upslope increasing hard

Oh dear, I'm triggered by the word 'trigger', and you've used it several times here!

And "triggering an event" is twice as bad, because events are nuclear!

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Happy

Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

yeah I'd actually done 'Overlord / Minion' a bit further down. great minds think alike though

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Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

Seme / Uke? (not Judo terms)

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Anonymous Coward

> I changed it to redlist and greenlist and carried on.

What was the redhead reaction to redlist error messages?

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Re: I could not agree more

In your post, you used the word "condemned". That's offensive to inmates on death row. I couldn't ignore the fact that you also casually used the word "token", which is racist. I'm definitely not in love with the word 'interpreter' as this could trigger any monoglots reading your post.

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Re: I second master / minion

On technical things, where the term "minion" is used, I'd expect there to be many minions and one master. With master/slave, it tends to imply one or few slaves. A "minion" also, sounds like a smaller component. If technical things get renamed you don't want to make them harder to understand. Now that I think about it "slave" is generally a poor analogy for the technical usage: slaves didn't sit around waiting while the master did all the work only stepping in when needed.

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Re: I could not agree more

"(oops, I meant a condemned word list)"

Surely that's offensive to people awaiting execution?

And surely this comment is offensive to people called Shirley?

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Re: I could not agree more

I have a problem with model / view and.... argh "controlller" ? !!!

Please, take me to my safe space. Now. Please. I think I'm going to have a meltdown. And have the police meet me there, I wish to make a complaint.

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Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

Master / Minion !

Gru / Minion

I have kids. They love these films. Mind you so do I. :)

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Re: I could not agree more

What about BOFH / Luser? Totally clear to anyone in IT (or should be)

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LDS
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Devil

Perhaps "controller" and "controllee"?

"Boss" and "underling" conveys better the meaning.

Anyway, I find the term "parent" not adequate for those who had abusive parents, have lost them young, or have been abandoned. It's also painful for those who can't have children and thereby can't become parents. Moreover a parent\child relationship has already a clear and different meaning, especially in OOP.

"Worker" may not be good for the far-right, always fearful that workers of the world could unite, size the production servers and create a cloudkhoz. And a worker, unlike a slave, has to be paid and may want a pension when it's garbage collected.

"Leader" and "follower" has also bad connotations - who want to be a "follower"? Do you imply my code lacks "leadership"?

"Primary" and "replica" have a different meaning than master/slave. "Replica" is usually passive only. Even "primary" and "secondary" have a different meaning - it's a less strong relationship.

Maybe "Lord" and "Vassal"? Just, vassals were not always reliable.

But maybe, for Python, "Scrooge McDuck" and "Donald Duck"- with duck typing, it looks good.

Albeit, I have issue with the Python name itself, some people are really afraid of reptiles. If it quacks, it's a duck.

The good thing is that with each language and framework using different terms, people will understand even less how to write such kind of code, and quality will become even worse.

But the Newspeak attempts will have reached their goal to hide actual, real slavery.

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Joke

"President / citizen"

"President" and "Intern", maybe...

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Who cares, they don't have a soul.

edit: redheads, that is

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Re: @malle-herbert

"Or wife and husband"

But which one is in charge there? Men seem to think it is the wife, women seem to think it is the husband. but shouldn't be.

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Anonymous Coward

I'd call them PHB and codemonkey.

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how about 'boss' , 'employee'

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Overlord/Minion

Ultimately some people will discover the etymology of minion and we'll go through this all again.

For those who don't know, it's from the French for cute and was coined to get an accusation of ... 'servicing your employer' past the censors.

Same as Gunsel in fact.

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Happy

Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

Re:Master / Minion !

no..

Boss / Minion

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What about upsetting those with colour blindness?

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Headmaster

Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

DrEvil / Henchmen

Oh, wait, that won't work

DrEvil / Henchperson

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Anonymous Coward

99% of people who come up with these PC concerns are defending others by proxy, without ever being asked.

I remember when school blackboards started being called chalkboards in case it offended anyone... Errrr, the board is black, it's got nothing to do with race. It's not made out of crushed and extruded Africans!

Sometimes I really do just want to round all these people up and give them a slap.

These snowflakes really need to grow a thicker skin. I went through school as a skinny kid with glasses and an interest in computers, where were my nights in shiny armour to defend four-eyes? They said hurty words!

Meh... People... They're stupid.

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TRT
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Daemons and Deities?

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I'd propose Lord/Serf. Same meaning, different word. And bonus: It refers to WHITE people being the subordinates! Nobody could take offence to THAT right?

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Re: I could not agree more

@werdsmith, sorry, but you can't use "my safe space" because it requires segregation, elitism and discrimination.

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

In the interests of gender balance, if you have seme/uke then you need to include tachi/neko as well.

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Blackboards???

I used to teach at a computer company who had GREEN "chalkboards".

Just sayin'

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Alert

Hold on a moment...

"it's no more intelligent to fight against changing the terms."

The 'terms' don't change in or of themselves - it is people who ascribe the meaning. For example, the word "gay" didn't assume it's current cultural meaning all by itself - the meaning has been artificially imposed over years.

That raises the question of who gets to define the meaning and who gets to impose it.

The issue thus becomes one more important than that of transient semantics or mere practicality. It is one of both freedom of speech and the imposition of authority aka dictatorship.

Like so many other words in the English vocabulary, the word slave has more than one meaning; indeed it's original root has been applied to various different scenarios over time. This does mean that the meaning is largely contextual and so ascribing too much value to an alternate one denigrates the beauty and power of language.

Again this is a problem, both in principle and practice.

In principle it means that certain quarters will seek to establish themselves as the word/thought police, as indeed they are already doing.

In practice it means that the 'innocent will anguish over the innocuous' as well as a ton or more of unnecessary work in changing code, reprinting signs and other tangible material - all at great cost.

It can therefore not simply be ignored or adhered to as if to go with the flow.

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Anonymous Coward

"When you're more concerned about offending people than you are about making a good product, it's a losing game."

what if the criteria for 'making a good product' included the requirement that it 'didn't offend people'? for products and services to cater to their market they should have a broad appeal. that means using the kind of language that doesnt alienate or offend whilst maintaining enough semantic capital so that we all know what we're talking about.

tldr; you don't lose by being nice.

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Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

c) Tori / Uke (Judo terms. Judo.)

I was thinking more like "Seme / Uke" ("yaoi" fiction)

Or if you want to make a reference to a well-known fictional Python programmer, you have "Kobayashi / Tohru" in the master/servant roles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hold on a moment...

what you're describing is the everchanging semantics in language. its a constant battle between the progressives who are willing to modify words to convey new and better meanings and the regressives who cling on to their old definitions, scared their world view will collapse because words are changing around them.

you've implied that the desire to change language is authoritarian - that's true only if it comes with a real penalty ("omg i cant say the word i used to say cos people will be offended", isnt a penatly, it's petulance). if anything it's the desire to preserve language that's authoritarian as it prevents us from expanding the vocabulary and refining the syntax. its also regressive and fundamentally against the natural human instinct to evolve and discover.

long story short. Master and Slave are just words. Words which have no more value in their meaning for ATA connected devices on a mother board and no less value when describing treating people as property.

they're just words - don't cling onto them so dearly because the next generation will be changing them anyway.

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Facepalm

Re: that's the point where things start to go downhill.

Ok, add

Pole / Hole ....

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Paris Hilton

Re: "President / citizen"

That just blows!

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"blacklist/whitelist being racist? Male/female connectors not including an intersex variant?"

To be fair, while I would not say that blacklist/whitelist is racist, it DOES stem from the historical association white = good*, black = bad. I'm not sure historically if this association stemmed from racism or if racism stemmed from this association (or as is more likely a complex combination of both).

The problem really isn't the words themselves, it's that some/many** people ARE racist. If racism didn't exist, no-one would bat an eyelid about whitelist/blacklist or master/slave except as a linguistical oddity, just as left-handed people don't object to the use of 'sinister'*** because they're not discriminated against for being left-handed***

Description of parts of a connector as male/female,it's based on physical reality so if anyone is offended by that it's because they're the type of person who 'like' to be offended because it gives them an opportunity to vent. On the other hand given some type of connectors like USB are rather 'hermaphroditical' perhaps a better term than male/female can be found.

*at least in the west. In China for example white is associated with death.

** delete as you think appropriate

***AFAIK

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @malle-herbert

""Or wife and husband"

But which one is in charge there? Men seem to think it is the wife, women seem to think it is the husband. but shouldn't be."

Husbands think they are in charge. Wives allow them that delusion :)

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"the historical association white = good*, black = bad"

I'm quite sure it comes from a very ancient experience that day/light are safe, dark/night are dangerous because you can't see dangers waiting for you (unless you're a cat).

The problems came when religions tried to give a supernatural explanation to ancient fears, and turned them into "personae" - thus the evil, dangerous one often live in the dark and are black while the good, helpful ones live in the light and are white (it also suited best fair-skinned people, of course).

Which in turn probably created a justification for racism especially against "black" people.

PS: left handed people have been discriminated, and often children exhibiting the behaviour were forced in different ways to become right-handed until recent times.

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Facepalm

... blackboards started being called chalkboards ...

Actually, I remember blackboards being called chalkboards because in my school, the chalkboards were green in color.

"greenboards" - besides not sounding as functional as "blackboards" - may also offend our environmentalistic brethren.

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