The Illuminating Question

Subject: The Illuminating Question
From: Bernie McCann <BernieMc -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 11 Jul 1998 12:28:36 EDT

The recent example given in the correct usage of terminology for lamps seemed,
by one or two people, as a waste of time. I'm sure that we all know that
correct terminology must be used at all times, just as the use of jargon
should be avoided, but I wonder if everyone stops to seriously consider the
reason why.

Coincidently, I have found an old style guide on my shelf that addresses the
subject precisely. I hope that it is of interest.


The recommended terms for the states of a lamp are "lit" and
"extinguished". These should always be used in the passive, not the active
form, eg "Lamp ILP1 is lit".

The objections to other terms are easiest illustrated in somewhat
frivolous manner:

* The lamp lights. (A cigarette?)

* The lamp extinguishes. (A fire?)

* The lamp burns. (Fire!)

* The lamp goes out. (To lunch?)

The logic here is that a lamp is a passive component; it must be
activated by some outside agency. Its states are thus best described in a
passive form. The only active funtions of a lamp are to indicate or

Yes, aircraft have crashed (really) by the incorrect usage of terminology
(computers too, perhaps) which is why the subject is understood by most
"engineers", and I am sure that skilled editors can see why they, too, must be
careful (and given greater power, perhaps).

Jokes off line please.

BernieMc -at- aol -dot- com

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