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Subject: Re: DOCBOOK: Re: doc domain vs. problem domain semantics (Re[2]:listitem)

On Thu, Jan 03, 2002 at 07:46:30AM -0500, Norman Walsh wrote:
> / Michael Smith <smith@xml-doc.org> was heard to say:
> | Norman Walsh <ndw@nwalsh.com> writes:
> | A Glosslist is a specific list of glossary terms paired with their
> | associated definitions, so maybe the name "Variablelist" was chosen to
> | imply a more generic list of associated pairs -- one that could be
> | used for "variable" purposes, not just for term/definition pairs.
> My guess is the etymology is something like that. I don't think that
> the "variable" ever meant programming language variables, but I could
> be wrong.

The element name "variablelist" most likely comes from the
"mm" troff macro set (specifically, the .VL macro). The mm
macros originated at AT&T for Unix users in the late
1970s.  The original authors of DocBook were all Unix
users, so I suspect they just carried over the term for
lack of a better one or to ease the transition from troff
to SGML.

All of the mm list macros had something hanging in the
left indent, and were named for what was hanging.
There were .BL (bullet list), .DL (dash list),
and .AL (autonumbered list).  The "variable" in .VL means
variable content in what hangs out there for each list
item.  I suppose we could rename the element
"whatever-you-want-out-there-list" to clarify it.  8^)

> | Regardless, I guess "Variablelist" is sort of confusing, not very
> | precise, because it doesn't imply anything about pairing or
> | association. If you think of the name as parallel to "Glosslist" (and
> | don't read the documentation), I guess it might be natural to assume
> | that a Variablelist is a list of variables.
> Yes, I suppose. RTFM, I guess. Renaming variablelist at this point
> would create a significant legacy problem for a very small return,


Bob Stayton                                 400 Encinal Street
Publications Architect                      Santa Cruz, CA  95060
Technical Publications                      voice: (831) 427-7796
Caldera International, Inc.                 fax:   (831) 429-1887
                                            email: bobs@caldera.com

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