Improving genitive. Or not.... (part 3): The hazards of "off label" usage

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2011/10/27 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

Previous posts in the series are Improving genitive. Or not.... (part 1) and Improving genitive. Or not.... (part 2): Explaining the point of Part 1.

I thought I'd do something different today.

Now all the way back in 2004, near the end of the second month of this Blog, I wrote What the %$#! are genitive dates?, which was remarkable for several reasons:

The first and third parts are connected -- despite the fact that I did well on every test in school that explained the genitive case, the fact is that I really was unable to usefully do anything with it until I learned something about a language that had a separate spelling for the separate case (Russian). It just seemed too theoretical, you know?

My experience with reflexive verbs was the same; until I learned about them for Hebrew, passing tests didn't prove I understood the concepts. It only proved that I took tests well.

Many people have described their introduction similarly, so I know it wasn't just me....

Anyway, there are several locales representing languages that, like English, did not have spelling changes associated with genitive month names.

Some of these locales found another use for the "genitive months" feature.

Like if they wanted the month name on its own to be capitalized but in a sentence they wanted it to be lower-cased.

Locales like Portuguese, for example.

And as you can imagine, this "off label" usage of the Windows "genitive months" feature doesn't always work as people would perhaps wish for.

It is even occasionally reported as a bug, this "inconsistent" capitalization.

Just as genitive months don't always work as customers might hope, this "off-label" use of the feature has significant limitations, too. Since it wasn't designed for the scenario, etc....

But just as in the pharmaceutical industry, it can make sense to figure out whether these other usages can be helpful too, and they can tailor the "prescription" to work better. If the Dev team knew about this alternate usage, they wouldn't have invented the next Rogaine or Viagra (conceptually speaking, I mean - we are just talking about software!), but they would have had yet another reason to try and make it work better!

Van on 27 Oct 2011 2:04 PM:

So I guess the question is why we can't just leave the genitive month algorithm as is, but incorporate two new month name variables - an invariant nominative and genitive - that will implement regardless of or contrary to the genitive month algorithm. I mean, if your old assumptions don't work anymore, keep the old stuff around for when it's needed and implement a new way that will work, no?

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referenced by

2012/01/05 Improving genitive. Or not.... (part 5): You can't make it sexier by giving it a Latin twist...

2011/10/28 Improving genitive. Or not.... (part 4): On [not] finding the smoking gun

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