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Excellent post. Just a couple of points.

First of all for a longer discussion of the (de)merits of the ref($proto)||$proto construct, I would point to Re (tilly) 2: Paradigm Shift - Dual Use Constructors. (I particularly like chip's comments about cargo culting being appropriate at a larval stage of development.)

Secondly I think the fact that the phrase fails to capture either the original usage or the historical situation it came out of is a natural part of how language evolves. Phrases come into use, and seldom do people remember the original circumstances, and seldom does a widely used phrase remain static in meaning. Indeed after time its original meaning becomes far less relevant than the agreed upon, shared meaning.

For a random instance, we all know what it means to welsh on a bet. I have seen the phrase used, you will find it in the dictionary, etc. And almost never is it used with the intention of furthering a racial stereotype...because that isn't the meaning we continue to share.

In reply to Re (tilly) 2: The first cargo cults by tilly
in thread The first cargo cults by jepri

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