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`alternate' vs `alternative' (was Re: WD-rdf-syntax-grammar-20030123: RDF/XML with HTML and XHTML)

From: Sandy Nicholson <sandy@anich.demon.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 20:11:38 +0000
Message-Id: <p05200f08ba6f01a03f68@[80.177.14.148]>
To: www-rdf-comments@w3.org

Dave Hodder wrote:

>     <link rel="alternate meta"    type="application/ntriples"
>         title="Dublin Core metadata (N-Triples)" href="dublin-core.nt"/>
>
> N.B. I would strongly suggest the use of the linktype 'Alternate' over
> the 'Alternative' used in the WD; both 'Alternate' and 'Meta' are in the
> latest XHTML 2.0 draft, but 'Alternative' is not.

While I'm also in favo(u)r of consistency with the XHTML 2.0 draft and other
publications of the W3C, I am more concerned that the word `alternative'
should be used in preference to `alternate' in this and similar instances.

Merriam-Webster defines the noun `alternate' as synonymous with the noun
`alternative', though it also gives a secondary definition: `one that
substitutes for or alternates with another'. `Alternative' is defined as
we would like, without that ambiguity.

Now, given that one of Merriam-Webster's definitions of `alternate' is
`alternative', that doesn't seem so bad, but there is a problem when you
cross the Atlantic. Here in Britain, `alternate' has only the secondary
meaning - it _never_ means the same as `alternative'.

I can understand that the de facto language for W3C documents is US English,
but it seems sensible to avoid pitfalls in closely related languages such
as British English, if they are easily avoided. It's only two letters longer
and eliminates any potential for ambiguity in US English too.

Sorry for taking so much space to justify what may seem like a tiny change.

Sandy Nicholson
Received on Tuesday, 11 February 2003 15:31:31 GMT

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