SUMMARY: Master/Slave/Mirror

Subject: SUMMARY: Master/Slave/Mirror
From: "Mark L. Levinson" <markl -at- gilian -dot- com>
To: TechWr-L <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 09 Apr 2000 13:15:23 +0300

Last week I asked a question that kind of changed course midway.
First I asked if there is a politically correct alternative to
"master/slave." Then when I saw the examples of master/slave
technology that I was receiving, they seemed a bit remote from what
I was trying to describe and I asked about the terminology of
mirroring as an alternative. If we use "mirror" instead of
"slave," what do we use instead of "master"?

On the master/slave issue, which Eric has asked us not to debate
on-list right now, I received several replies from people who
believe in political correctness but only two replies from people
who seemed to have any gut reaction to the term. Oddly, neither
was among those suggesting alternatives. Emru Townsend merely
remarked that the term carried some weirdness with it, and
Chris Jackson, after explaining that it is "a horrible choice for
a metaphor," noted that "the MS Style Guide okays it for technical
doc if it is accepted in the particular industry."

Another citation came from Bryan Jonker: "There's an article
I just read from _Technical_Communication_Quarterly_ (7.4, 1998,
pgs 389-414): 'Masters, Slaves, and Infant Mortality: Language
Challenges for Technical Editing' that discusses this problem.
Doesn't give any clear-cut answer, but it does explore issues
about how using a metaphor like this is possibly unethical, because
it compares an acceptable situation with an unacceptable situation."

Bryan noted that PC Anywhere uses the term "host" but has nothing
better for the other side of the relationship than "computer
connected to the host."

Other alternatives suggested to me were--

Primary/Secondary.- 5 votes
Parent/Child - 2 votes
Master/Servant - 2 votes
Master/Secondary.- 1 vote
Master/Target.- 1 vote
Independent/dependent - 1 vote
Controller/controlled - 1 vote
Master/Slave (unchanged) - 5 votes

"It is only offensive to the unknowledgeable and narrow minded,"
says John Posada, but I would have said exactly the same thing
twenty-five years ago about the generic "he". So as
Darla Kennington says, "I'm not sure if anyone is sensitive
to this terminology, but just in case, I want to avoid offending
at all costs."

In the meantime, my SMEs nixed mirroring as an alternative
metaphor, but I did get some interesting answers on that one.
Eric wrote, "A mirror (in disk usage terminology) is simply a
mirror. If you have a primary drive that is then copied to
a duplicate, you might use sub-mirror to describe the duplicate."
Mike Hiatt wrote, "The secondary mirrors the primary."
Pat Warriner DeWeese wrote: "Source and mirror? Image and mirror?"
And Diane Williams suggested "Original" as a possible synonym for

Thanks to all who responded. I'll be retreating to my mountaintop
to meditate on it all-- I'm beginning to think that maybe the
metaphor I need is actually something to do, if not with mirroring,
then with replication-- and I'll let you know what we finally wind
up saying.

Mark L. Levinson - markl -at- gilian -dot- com - Herzlia, Israel

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