RE: Pet Peeves

Subject: RE: Pet Peeves
From: "elizabeth j allen" <eja -at- samurai -dot- com>
To: "Gordon McLean" <Gordon -dot- McLean -at- GrahamTechnology -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2007 11:30:29 -0400 (EDT)

>From Wikipedia:

It is often claimed that the term originally referred to the maximum
thickness of a stick with which it was permissible for a man to beat his
wife.[1] This explanation for the origin of the term was popularized in
the opening of the 1999 movie The Boondock Saints. <endquote>

This is only *1* of *6* possible origins for the phrase.

Also from Wikipedia:
A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended
to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily
learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or
recalling some value, or for making some determination. Compare this to
heuristic, a similar concept used in mathematical discourse, or in
computer science, particularly in algorithm design.

The term "rule of thumb" or similar stands in many languages and cultures
for "quickly understood, easily used, practical method yielding
approximate results".


Frankly, to avoid a term with a commonly understood usage that is
appropriate simply because the origins of the phrase may be questionable
is utterly ridiculous. Someone wants us to stop using a phrase because it
meant something different in 1692? Words, their meanings, and dictionaries
evolve with time. I like to think my thinking evolves as well. "Rule of
thumb" is not sexist or bad, however the phrase may have originated over
400 years ago.

My rule of thumb: if it conveys the meaning you want to convey, use it.

Elizabeth J. Allen
Technical Writer
"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

Gordon McLean said:
> "rule of thumb"?
> I'm genuinely curious as to why this is either sexist or racist. Yes I
> wouldn't use it in documentation but... No someone smarter than me will
> need
> to point out why that statement is 'bad'.
> Yours in curiosity,
> Gordon
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> techwr-l-bounces+gordon -dot- mclean=grahamtechnology -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+gordon -dot- mclean=grahamtechnology -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- c
> om] On Behalf Of Dori Green
> Sent: 13 March 2007 14:41
> To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> Subject: RE: Pet Peeves
> Everybody who makes their living using language really should take it upon
> themselves to become informed about sexist and racist language, and delete
> it from their vocabulary.
> I've recently seen "rule of thumb" and "dog and pony show" right here on
> this list. Look 'em up, and cut 'em out.
> It's the recipient who determines whether or not the message is clear --
> or
> hurtful. When we have been informed that certain words and phrases are
> hurtful, we need to stop using them.
> Dori Green


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include single source authoring, team authoring,
Web-based technology, and PDF output.

Now shipping: Help &amp; Manual 4 with RoboHelp(r) import! New editor,
full Unicode support. Create help files, web-based help and PDF in up
to 106 languages with Help &amp; Manual:

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

RE: Pet Peeves: From: Dori Green
RE: Pet Peeves: From: Gordon McLean

Previous by Author: Re: Rant: Giving up on XML
Next by Author: RE: Pet Peeves
Previous by Thread: Re: Pet Peeves
Next by Thread: Fwd: Pet Peeves

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads