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st: RE: STATA verses Stata

From   "Nick Cox" <[email protected]>
To   <[email protected]>
Subject   st: RE: STATA verses Stata
Date   Wed, 1 Nov 2006 21:34:33 -0000

I am not ever wrathful on Statalist. Irritated, sometimes, 
yes indeed. 

Well, this detail is not as important as love or war
or anything really important. Naturally. Even extreme pedants such 
as myself know that. By the way, Bertrand Russell's subversive
definition of a pedant was, correcting a sexist 
formulation of his, a person who prefers to be correct. 
So, the choice is: would you prefer to be correct or incorrect, 
when being correct costs nothing? 

There are several more specific reasons that come to mind. 

1. As recorded elsewhere, the company who invented 
the program of which we speak did use the word
"STATA" very briefly in their history, but they 
then changed quickly to "Stata" in their work and documentation
and that's been consistent for pretty much twenty years
now. In fact, the real historical puzzle is why does the mutant
form persist at all? My only guess here is that many of 
the other well-known programs in this territory (SAS, 
SPSS, etc.) do have all-caps names and some people 
are choosing by analogy with that.  

2. The form "STATA" would be understandable in 
an acronym: recall that an acronym is an word composed
of the initial letters of other words (modulo a few 
omissions or small stretches of that principle). But 
"Stata" is, as explained elsewhere, an invented word, and has
never been an acronym. Again, this contrasts with most
of the other big names. 

3. As anybody in receipt of all-caps communications
knows, there is a common synaesthetic reaction 
to such signals: even though reading such silently, 
we often have the sensation that the person sending is 
"shouting" at us, and that is not nice unless we are 
deaf, which is not a consideration with email. 

4. In most fonts, upper case letters are more
similar to each other than lower case letters 
and as such are more difficult to read. You have
only got to imagine reading even a couple of pages
that were printed entirely in upper case to realise
that. The very thought is tiring. 

5. Stata does, like Unix, have an overall affinity
for lower-case names wherever possible and the form
"STATA" is quite alien to that style. 

6. This is explained in the FAQ, right at the end, 
and is -- accidentally -- therefore a test of whether
people have actually read it through, and, in words 
borrowed from elsewhere, inwardly digested it. 
The FAQ has grown up organically as a set of 
recommendations designed to make the list as 
efficient and effective as possible, and it is 
disappointing when people appear (emphasise "appear") 
to want to use the list entirely on their own terms. 

7. The signal sent tacitly when people mis-spell 
a word like Stata is that they are not careful 
about details. This irritates people who are 
careful about details, such as those several of 
those experienced users who are among the most 
active members and up-holders of the list. 
It also has a clear implication, sometimes at least, 
that people who can't bother to pay attention and 
get very simple things right are likely to get themselves
into frequent messes with languages like Stata. 

In fact, the only defence I can think of for "STATA" 
is the standard "I know what I mean, you know what 
I mean, so why object" reaction, which is the 
standard defence also given for sloppy grammar, 
punctuation, spelling, use of words, etc., etc. 
It is a defence that has some substance to it, 
in practice if not in principle, but I would be
interested to hear of another. 
P.S. it is "versus", not "verses"....

Yours charmingly, 

[email protected] 

White, Justin
> This is just a curiosity of mine and I may be inviting the wrath of Dr
> Cox (I always seemed to get "ripped a new one" when I post even though
> he tries to be as polite as possible), but according to the FAQS,
> "Stata" should not be spelled with all caps.  My question is why it
> matters if it is spelled STATA or Stata.
> Again, this is just a curiosity of mine.

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