Re: terminology

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Fri May 03 2002 - 01:22:57 EDT

This discussion may have started in unicoRe, but it's dropped into
unicoDe now, so you guys are stuck hearing from me again.

Michael Everson <> wrote:

> At 15:15 -0400 2002-05-02, Tex Texin wrote:
>> Sentinel does have a meaning in software, an extension of "guard"
>> to mean a delimiting value.

I learned the computer-related meaning of "sentinel" the same way as
everyone else who began programming on microcomputer BASICs in the early
'80s. In the following classic BASIC line:

100 DATA 20, 18, 16, 24, -1

the value -1 is a sentinel, a recognizably invalid data item that
signifies the end of valid data items. The commas that separate the
values are delimiters.

(But, of course, one could always argue that the commas are recognizably
not digits and, as such, signify to the interpreter the end of the
numeric data item. So maybe on a lower level, the commas are sentinels
too. But I wouldn't have called them that.)

> And in the world of internationalization this stuff has to be
> translated. It has to make sense. Quick-and-dirty Californian
> "definitions" cause problems for other people in the world because
> the images or idioms may not be universal. Sentinal does not seem
> to me to be equivalent to "literal". "Delimiter" seems better.

Hey, hey, hey. Tex is a Bostonian. We Californians do play fast and
loose with language sometimes, but we had nothing to do with this.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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