Software Musings

10% Haircuts

Posted on: 14/05/2006

I was sitting in a coffee shop last Thursday allowing my brain to run in idle mode. Opposite my seat was a barber with a large sign outside saying

10% off

I fell to speculating as to whether 10% would represent a significant haircut or not. My hair is not as long as it once was and I estimated the average length to be about 4 to 5 cm. This haircut would result in a loss of 4 to 5 mm: not unreasonable but perhaps a little short of a good haircut.

I was reminded of this over dinner last night when a bunch of us were discussing language. I have been rereading Ian Hacking’s book Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy? and was pontificating when Laurie said “but language works because of goodwill—-because both parties want it to work”. I had not previously thought of this idea, of positive will on one party to transmit and on the other to receive. It did, however, revive my barber example and an email signature that I once used for a long time:

“Keep away from Children and Do Not Drink” — useful advice found on an Epson Print Cartridge

Having sent one of my correspondents dozens of emails with this signature, I eventually had an email back from her saying “Chris, I’ve just understood your signature”.

Does this invalidate the positive co-operation argument?


2 Responses to "10% Haircuts"

No, it doesn’t invalidate the argument! On the contrary: think of the huge amount of goodwill on her part in the dozens of times she must have looked and pondered, “Now I wonder why Chris put THAT in his signature???”

Shades of “Eats, shoots & leaves” (that wonderful book by Lynne Truss)? [Heck, I’d link to it except that comments on WordPress don’t seem to have that privilege!]

But, I have to say that it is risky business: consider your first sentence. Where was that sign, prey? On his shirt?

And which way were you facing such that this hapless barber was opposite?

I mean, just that one sentence is fodder for a whole blog article!

My wife does a credible imitation of Rose (Rose is Rose); she nearly backflips over grammar errors…

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The author of this blog used to be an employee of Nortel. Even when he worked for Nortel the views expressed in the blog did not represent the views of Nortel. Now that he has left, the chances are even smaller that his views match those of Nortel.
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