Received: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 06:59:36 +0900
And lo, Sean wrote:

> On Monday 14 June 2004 14:55, Gavin Sinclair wrote:
> > On Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 2:57:26 AM, Hal wrote:
> > > Would you say that the ordering of the words in a dictionary is
> > > arbitrary?
> >
> > No because that ordering makes sense to Sean.  Anything *else* would
> > be, by definition, arbitrary.
> 
> Close, but not quite right.  It makes sense to most people, including me.
> 
> 	Sean O'Dell


Arbitrary does not mean 'bad,' 'random' or 'senseless.' - It literally means 'because I said so.'

It has evolved to mean 'somebody else's choice' - or simply 'out of my control' from the programmer's perspective.

As for the dictionary:
  Long, long ago, somebody said, "I'll make the alphabet in this order: 'a, b, c ...". And that was arbitrary. Then Webster thought he'd kill language evolution and said, "I'll write a dictionary! And the words will be in alphabetical order" - That was arbitrary. But you can bet it'd outsell a dictionary with words placed at random, simply because everyone by then believe that "a, b, c" was the natural order of the alphabet. Good business sense, but it's still arbitrary.

Unless there are rules that state "XYZ must be ordered alphabetically," then ordering XYZ alphabetically is arbitrary. But then, unless there's something that says, "XYZ must be ordered the way Sean wants it to be," then everything's arbitrary - But your choice is still arbitrary.

At least, that's my arbitrary definition of arbitrary.

This reply written arbitrarily.

- Walker