This is actually a quote by Dijkstra (sp? and I forgot his first name), and I had a similar response when I first read it (in a rather wonderful book entitled Classics in Computer Programming
(I think...)). Less symbols means less code, so it's optimization, which is of incredible conceptual importance (particularly when generating code rather than writing it. I'm starting to sympathize with the poor guys who had to write the first assemblers in machine code...). Oh well, one can't expect the man to be right all the time.