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One more time: Words have meaning

From: Elliotte Rusty Harold <elharo@metalab.unc.edu>
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2002 10:20:07 -0400
Message-Id: <p04330103b999223047eb@[]>
To: "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>

At 5:42 PM +0000 8/31/02, Ian Hickson wrote:
>I don't want to reopen this can of worms, but in the interests of
>On Tue, 20 Aug 2002, Håkon Wium Lie wrote:
>>  Also sprach Elliotte Rusty Harold:
>>>  All HTML tells you is that something is a paragraph, a level 1
>>>  heading, a table, monospaced, preformatted, and a few other things.
>>>  <SINGER>Madonna</SINGER> is more semantic than <SPAN>Madonna</SPAN>.
>>  You can combine the two
>>    <span class="singer">Madonna</span>
>>  which preserves your semantic
>The semantics being strictly _nothing_ in both cases, by the way.

No, they have meaning in both cases. The word "singer" is not a 
random group of characters. It is a specific word in the English 
language that has meaning. <SINGER>Madonna</SINGER> is not the same 
thing as <SAINT>Madonna</SAINT> or 
<iurewghyiuewu>Madonna</iurewghyiuewu>. Nor is  <span 
class="singer">Madonna</span> the same thing as <span 
class="saint">Madonna</span> or <span 

The meaning is dependent on context including space, time, and 
language. It is more or less accessible to different individuals. It 
may even be different for different individuals. The semantics, in 
other words, are fuzzy, as semantics almost always are. But this is 
not at all the same thing as saying that the semantics are "strictly 
_nothing_". They most definitely are something, even if you can't 
precisely pin down that something.

Do not fall into the trap of assuming that because we don't know 
everything, we know nothing. There's a wide gap between everything 
and nothing. Knowledge is not binary. There is more meaning in 
<SINGER>Madonna</SINGER> and <span class="singer">Madonna</span> that 
their is in <SPAN>Madonna</SPAN>.

| Elliotte Rusty Harold | elharo@metalab.unc.edu | Writer/Programmer |
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Received on Monday, 2 September 2002 10:29:23 UTC

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