5 votes roger — 5 votes, 13 commentsSource

This is stupid.

Because, to be honest, it doesn’t make sense. Is anybody really offended by “master” and “slave”? Do anybody even think of “slavery”? That person (which works for RedHat no less!) is just creating unnecessary drama. What’s next? Somebody will be offended by “child” and “parent”, somebody else will be offended by “pliant”, then somebody else will be offended by “python” because it’s a scary animal, somebody will be offended because we have male/female connectors, somebody will be offended because we can kill or abort a process. Should we also change “root” too because it offends me? Complaining “because somebody in the future could be offended” just doesn’t make any sense. Next time I write a software I will be afraid to name my variables because somebody feels offended.

First off, I want to say I’m not against you (politically speaking). I’m going to debate some of your points, but I also dislike identity politics and understand the sentiment you’re expressing.

Do anybody even think of “slavery”?

According to Wiktionary, slave is:

From Middle English, from Old French sclave, from Medieval Latin sclāvus (“slave”), from Late Latin Sclāvus (“Slav”), because Slavs were often forced into slavery in the Middle Ages;[1][2][3][4][5] see that entry and Slav for more.

You can see the Wikipedia article on Slavs which contains tibdits like:

During World War II, Nazi Germany planned to kill, deport, or enslave the Slavic and Jewish population of occupied Central and Eastern Europe to create Living space for German settlers…

Usually the word “slave” elicits thoughts of anti-black racism, but within the etymology of the word itself is a reference to the slavery of Slavic people. These days, most people (even white nationalists) consider Slavs to be “fully white.” My point is: yes, the word does make people think of slavery - and even slavery on the basis of race - but this new information gives us a different lens to view that through.

What’s next? Somebody will be offended by “child” and “parent”…

Maybe. Does it matter?

It bothers me when people say stuff like “I’m gonna Google that” because they are normalizing Google. If I were to edit a readme or something and change “Google” to “web search” I think it would probably get merged. There’s no downside to losing a word like “Google” in favor of “web search” because nothing of value is lost. If it satisfies one party, I think that’s a fine compromise. I see no reason to hang on to words like “slave” in this context for similar reasons. It bothers some people, and we don’t lose anything by changing it.

There are some words I think we should fight against changing. This happens when the meaning of the word is important, to the point that changing it may harm other people. This is especially true for rights-based words like “woman” where laws exist that offer specific protections to groups of people based on some shared attributes they have. Slave isn’t a word I can see myself fighting for, especially not in this context.

Next time I write a software I will be afraid to name my variables because somebody feels offended.

My impression is that you’re feeling put-off by call-out-culture in general. The culture of shaming. I can get behind you there - I don’t think shaming people is ethical or effective. If someone sent you a friendly PR and asked some variable names to be changed because the ones you chose bother them, I see no reason not to oblige unless some important meaning gets lost. Ideally this could turn into a healthy, collaborative relationship between you and new contributors.

I don’t thing getting rid of “slave” is a bad thing, or something worth fighting against. I do acknowledge the issues with identity politics, but I just don’t see a reason to fight against this specific expression of it. Yes, there are deeper issues - I’d rather address those directly than deal with this surface level stuff.

This was great.

You cannot replace master/slave with parent/child as they have different meaning. Master/slave roles can be switched (think databases) while parent/child describe a dependency. Also re-using the word in an IT context lead them back to better usage. Like the word bitch that is being re-appropriated by the feminism movement.

Maybe Primary/Secondary would sound more neutral.

Oh, I like that.

I like this one. Avoiding metaphors when possible helps get around even the benign meanings. I’ve always felt a bit creepy when talking about the “parent” process “killing” the “child”. Perhaps someday we’ll get past that one as well.

I think I have a curious point of view to share. Growing up as a non-native English speaker, words like “kill”, “abort”, “parent/child”, “root”, didn’t bear any meaning during my childhood. They were just strings of letters which I would only learn to understand in the context of computers. For example… “what does master/slave mean?” I never bothered to take a dictionary and look for 1-1 translations, I would just read something up about the functionality, so I would learn that the “master” device is the primary or that it controls the “slave”. “Kill” only meant to stop a process one way or the other. And that was basically all I knew about it, just a computers’ term that didn’t mean anything else. It’s only growing up, and after learning more English, that I would appreciate all the metaphors. So maybe this is how other people think about those words too, which could explain why native speakers are more sensitive to this subject.

Yes, that makes sense. Maybe I could paraphrase, I went from meaning-P to meaning-Q and you went from meaning-0 to meaning-Q.

For my previous statement, I’ve thought about it more, especially after the Linux CoC news. I don’t really think avoiding all metaphors on purpose seems like a practical goal. But avoiding some of the words that make some folks upset seems like a good way to keep friends.

Some people want to live in this nice imaginary bubble in which there is no politics, but the tragedy for them is that politics is everywhere