Functionality (#699979)

Subject: Functionality (#699979)
From: "Higgins, Lisa R." <eilrh -at- EXCHANGE -dot- WCC -dot- ATT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 15:38:00 -0400

>>My position stands. I don't know about this. I know it's in Webster's
>10th. Still, it seems like something that evolved into the language, but I
>feel that it only muddies the language, and that we should still try to use
>function, functions, or capability. Functionality--Webster's or not--is

Linguistically, this stance has no foundation. The suffix *-ity* can be
to many words to create terms that simply haven't existed. It simply
changes an
adjective into a noun that pertains to a quality relating to the term's
*Specific* becomes *specificity*. *Tenacious* loses its *-ious* to
*tenacity*, or it retains its adjectival suffix and adds *-ness* to
become a
noun that means the same thing. The language has syntactic rules for
how suffixes may be used. Whether or not this term appears in a popular
dictionary is beside the point if it follows these rules.



The question, as I see it, is "Is there a difference between the word
'function' and the word 'functionality,' or is it just another pompous
long-cut for windbags who don't have anything weighty enough to say that
it doesn't require $6 words to maintain some perception of heft?"

And the ANSWER, IMO, is: The windbag thing.

And to clear up a couple of other points:

1. Dictionaries do not dictate language.

2. Syntactic rules do not dictate how suffices are used. Never have,
never will.

3. A native speaker CANNOT unknowingly violate a grammatical rule.
(Except in rare cases of head injury, yadda yadda yadda...)

If you say it as a word, it is a word. If I call you a horkmonkey,
'horkmonkey' is a word just as valid and respectable a word as
'cheeseburger,' 'desk,' or 'doppelganger.'

SO... "Is this a word?" is not a valid question.

"Is this word an elegant and effective way to communicate what I want to
communicate?" is the real question.

Consider accuracy and clarity foremost, and it's not a bad idea to
occasionally make a concession to the constipated proscriptivist types
in your audience whose brains explode when you split an infinitive.

If your audience really really wants the word, for whatever reason--it's
pompous and absurd, and makes them feel like big important grownups; it
really has some distinct meaning that 'function' doesn't accurately
convey; they really like the letter 'y' because it makes them think
about girls--use it. If they don't need or really want it, use something
shorter and clearer.

I use a few approaches when I write to lessen the chance that I increase
readability levels. First, I avoid using terms of French or Latin
when a simple Anglo-Saxon derivative is available. Second, I use
clauses sparingly. Third, when I use a technical term that a reader may
understand, I define it in context or use it in a way that most users
can define
it in context on their own. And fourth, I look at the number of
syllables. A
word with a lot of affixes may complicate communication. Based on these
I determine how to get the cumulative effect I desire.

Yeah. I think that it's unreasonable of us to expect our users to have
assimilated this new French lexicon a scant 930 years after the Norman

If only you guys all knew how to write effective user manuals like my
recent "Dog, Log, and Pig: An Order Entry Guide." I think the caesura
and eye-rhyme really added to the retention factor.

Yrs &c.,
Lisa Higgins
eilrh -at- ei -dot- att -dot- com

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