Saturday, April 10, 2010

We landed momentarily, upon a premise … Cloud computing? Phooey!

Divided by a common language, we are, we are! US English, Australian English, British English (not to mention New Zealand, Irish, Scottish, South African and other variants).

This rant is not about “cloud computing” -- but if you want a quite good overview of this rather nebulous topic (pun intended) you could do worse than reading Cloud Computing— Latest Buzzword or a Glimpse of the Future? over at the Google Apps site.

While reading the above, on page 2 (fifth paragraph) I came across the term “on-premises” then on page 4 (second paragraph) the term “on-premise” would you believe? Shock, horror! the former usage is proper English, the second is not.

Using Wikipedia a a reference base, premises are land and buildings together considered as a property, while in logic a premise is a declarative sentence, or proposition (which would go along with another declarative sentence known as the conclusion). If you don’t quite follow this, see or other definitive sources. To quote from Wikipedia regarding premises:

… the word is always used in the plural, but singular in construction. Note that a single house or a single other piece of property is "premises", not a "premise", although the word "premises" is plural in form as in "The equipment is located on the customer's premises" and never "The equipment is located on the customer's premise".

And regarding premise, consider the statement: “Since all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, it follows that Socrates is mortal.“

In this example, the first two independent clauses preceding the comma (namely, "all men are mortal" and "Socrates is a man") are the premises, while "Socrates is mortal" is the conclusion.

So, you might implement a cloud computing solution based on the two premises that it would firstly save you money and secondly be faster to implement than an on-premises, or in-premises, solution (one located on your organization’s data center, for example). But it would be incorrect to say “on-premise, or in-premise” solution.

A pedant I am, I am for sure! Having done lots of computer programming during more than four decades, the precise use of language (machine language, that is) has become even more ingrained in me. I will leave “no stone unturned” in my puritanical quest for verbal accuracy!

I get irked when terms are used incorrectly. Our verbal communications, whether spoken or written, deserve to be carried out with care and accuracy – preciseness, as well as precision.

All the same, I’m quite prepared to be flexible and pragmatic about it. All spoken languages gradually morph, new words are getting introduced all the time, others drop out of use.

Variations in grammar, spelling and pronunciation develop between regions/countries. As the song goes: “You say pyjamas and I say pajamas.”

Such differences can variously be confusing, amusing, embarrassing or even alarming. For example, in an early visit to the USA I was perplexed when the airline cabin staff said that we’d be landing momentarily, which to me (as an Aussie) meant “for a moment” so I had visions of a touch-and-go landing about to occur, not much time to alight (or “deplane” – ugly word):

Airbus A330-200F Touch-and-Go

To digress:
US airlines can do things surprisingly fast, at times. During one  business trip when I was at the IBM Lab in Rochester, Minnesota (helping prepare the way for the IBM AS/400 system to be readied for announcement in 1988), I had cause to fly from Rochester to Atlanta, transiting via O'Hare airport Chicago.  The late evening flight into O’Hare was delayed almost an hour due to fog, it landed, I ran at top speed between the two airport gates, but barely missed the outgoing flight to Atlanta. Amazingly, the luggage had already been transferred between aircraft, no more flights to Atlanta that evening, so I had to sleep overnight in my street clothes! That, I suppose, is an example of speedy service that turns out to be bad service.

Getting back to spoken languages, English specifically, here are just a few a few examples of regional/national differences:

  1. I more or less worked out for myself (in various trips to the USA) that “teeter-totter” is children’s play equipment, what Aussies (and Brits) call a “see-saw.”

  2. What most Americans pronounce as “sodder” is what we call “solder” (with the letter “L” clearly sounded). … Why drop the “L” sound? No connection I suppose with “sod off” (as the Brits are wont to say, unofficial derivation here and more British slang here).

  3. But it took me a little while to comprehend that the footwear that in the USA gets called “flip-flops” are what Aussies call “thongs” – however, apparently what in the USA are call “thongs” are far from being mere footwear! Dare I say, the nearest association between the two is described nonchalantly here at Wikipedia!

  4. In a similar anatomical relationship vein to number 3, the wedge-heeled shoes called “wedges” shouldn’t be confused with “wedgies.”

Oh what fun and games can be had with words.

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