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9:49am on Friday, 9th March, 2007:

Adjective Noun Noun


There's a sign up near what is ostentatiously called the Tollgate Retail Park in Colchester which reads as follows:

Massive Bed Sale

I'm not surprised they have to reduce their prices: who wants to buy a massive bed?

It reminds me of another sign I used to see when we visited my wife's brother and family:

Giant Boot Sale

If any QBlog readers want a giant boot, I know where you can get one.

Something I always intended to do with MUD2 but never quite got around to was to add parentheses to the input line parser. This was so you could disambiguate subject and object.

For example, consider the command PUT STICK IN BAG IN BOX. Is it asking to put the stick, which is in the bag, into the box? Or to put the stick, which you're holding, in the bag, which is in the box? Context could perhaps be used to disambiguate this (if there's no stick in a bag but you are holding a stick, you know which command it must mean), but it doesn't always work. Another approach is to execute every possibility, but this is sensitive to execution order ("Am I holding a stick? Yes. Is there a bag in a box? Yes. OK, I'll put the stick in the bag in the box. Now, is there a stick in a bag? Yes, there's one in the bag which is in the box. I'll take it out of there and put it in the box."). It can also be tricky if there are multiple sticks: you might have referred to the stick in the bag deliberately, because the stick you were holding is on fire and you don't want to put that in the box...

With parentheses, this all goes away. PUT STICK IN [BAG IN BOX] and PUT [STICK IN BAG] IN BOX are unambiguous. Sorted!

Massive [Bed Sale]
Giant [Boot Sale]

Yes, that works. It's such a shame that most people are so unmathematical that they wouldn't have a clue what it meant.

Oh, for our non-UK readers, a "boot sale" is a "car boot sale", ie. a field in which families set up stalls out of the boots (trunks) of their cars, selling things they no longer want but figure other people might. They share this field with organised gangs of DVD pirates, sellers of stolen goods, VAT-avoiding small traders and plain-clothed police and trading standards officers.

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).