[linux-elitists] OH NOOES! Another GPL release from Microsoft!

D. Joe Anderson deejoe at etrumeus.com
Thu Jul 23 06:20:41 PDT 2009

On Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 07:55:16AM +0000, Bob Bernstein wrote:

> On Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 05:24:27PM +1000, Ben Finney wrote:
> > You'd prefer we buy into the dangerous and ludicrous fiction that
> > a corporation is an individual entity?

> No, it's much simpler than that, which is why I expect virtually
> everyone around here to have trouble grasping the point. 


The (side) point is that those who learned their English outside
North American[1] tend to use the plural form of a verb when
speaking of aggregate entities such as corporations, teams,
governments and the like.  There is nothing incorrect or
affectatious about their doing so.  At least, nothing nearly so
incorrect as provincial, prescriptive grammatical trolling.

If, indeed, one can say useful things at all about legal
fictions like corporations, one can say them using the plural
form of a verb as well as the singular.  As the man said, stop
acting so helpless.

Not that I'm going to begin using the plural form in this way,
nor begin peppering certain words with extra u's or inverting
terminal re's, because for *me* that would be affectatious, but
I've often thought plural usage serves as a subtle-but-powerful
reminder that aggregate entities are naturally multiplicitous.

Sure, a corporation as a whole can be said to hold a certain
policy or to pursue a certain course.  Folk tend then to look to
the central leaders of such an entity, cf the rantings of a
monkey-boy CEO, to discern the existence and nature of any unity
of purpose of this kind.

But corporate aims, as with individuals, can change over time,
what I'll call here a vertical variation.  More to the point,
and orthogonal to this temporal aspect, a corporate entity more
so than an individual can contain and pursue multiple
motivations horizontally across its subunits at any given time.

For example, does the fact that Intel video in Linux suddenly
began to suck more signal a deliberate shift in course for
Intel?  I've seen explanations as to what happened there that
are much better understood if one recognizes and acknowledges
Intel not as a hive-mind of drones working in perfect lockstep,
but consisting of distinct individuals working at least

Further examples of this sort abound with regard to other
corporations' dispositions toward the kind of licensing we seek
for the software we use.

> Which is correct?:                                                              
> 1. Foobar Widgets Inc. are an excellent supplier of widgets.                    
> 2. Foobar Widgets Inc. are excellent suppliers of widgets.                      
> 3. Foobar Widgets Inc. is an excellent supplier of widgets. 

So, more "correct" answers to your query in the current context

4. Foobar Widgets Inc. provide an excellent supply of widgets.
5. Foobar Widgets Inc. offer an excellent supply of widgets.

depending, of course, on what one intends to say.  Less wordy,
e-prime, action verbs, and all that.

After all, we're talking about writing well . . . right?

[1] http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/faq/index.php?page=misc#english
man screen | grep -A2 weird
  A weird imagination is most useful to gain full advantage of
  all the features.

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