Re: character string order

Subject: Re: character string order
From: Sandra Charker <scharker -at- connectives -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 10:50:45 +1100

I have a bunch of character strings that are sorted as follows:

adam < armageddon < bob < beryl

The programmers are calling this "lexicografical order", but the closest
I've found is "lexicografic". Does the word "lexicografical" exist?
Does either of these words describe the order I'm using?

I'm late responding to this, but having seen the earlier responses I think that a warning might be timely.

When technical people use technical expressions that are new to you, it's good to try and sort out the meanings for yourself, but it's essential to verify, with the techheads, what you find. Especially for a phrase, it's not enough to look up the unfamiliar words in a general dictionary and extrapolate to something that seems reasonable. Like all language, technical terms can take on a life of their own and you need to check that the SMEs are using the expression in the same way as you understand it..

You don't have to be too self-deprecating about this either. "Let's just be sure we're all talking about the same thing here. What exactly do YOU mean by 'lexicographical order' ?", does the same job as "Um. Sorry. What does 'lexicographical order' mean", and can have the entertaining (as well as useful) side-benefit of uncovering lack of unanimity among the technoids. One of my favourite professional memories is of asking for the meaning of an acronym in a meeting of 8 people and getting 11 different answers.

Just for the heck of it, I tried Google on "lexigraphic order", "lexicographical order", and "lexicographic sort". From a skim of a few of the hits, I'd guess that 'lexicographic / lexicographical order' is one of those phrases that has a very specific meaning (which I didn't understand; it's tangled up with permutations) in mathematics, which was taken into computer science and thence into general programming, where it is rapidly losing its original rigour. I'd also guess that a 'lexicographic sort' incorporates the names of numbers into an alphabetic sort, instead of treating them as distinct characters the way an alphanumeric sort does. That took about 10 minutes, and would be enough for me to feel comfortable going back to the programmers and asking them to clarify their terms, including whether the order applied only to the initial character or to the whole string because I couldn't judge from the example.

Hope this helps someone.

Sandra Charker

mailto:scharker -at- connectives -dot- com

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