Verified vs Verifiable (was Re: The welcome to the mailing list letter, suggested)

From: Steve Chessin <steve_dot_chessin_at_sun_dot_com>
Date: Tue Apr 20 2004 - 18:39:29 CDT

>From voting-project@gnosis.cx Tue Apr 20 13:34:34 2004
>Delivered-To: voting-project@afterburner.sonic.net
>From: voting-project@gnosis.cx (David Mertz)
>To: voting-project@lists.sonic.net
>Subject: Re: [voting-project] The welcome to the mailing list letter, suggested
>Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2004 16:16:57 -0400

>We should avoid characterizing OVC ballots as "Voter VefifIED" because
>it invites a contest to ballot legality: "Yeah, sure, I CAST my ballot;
>but I hadn't VERIFIED it... so it can't be binding." I don't think a
>court is going to consider and OVC pamphlet or mailing-list intro as
>governing; but we still want to encourage people to think about these
>issues accurately.
>
>It's interesting, Teresa, that your own website uses the "verifiable"
>terminology:
>
> http://home.earthlink.net/~acisney4/id16.html
>
>Or maybe that only refers to you (it's the first thing google has to say
>about your name)... following the link to:
>
> http://www.wheresthepaper.org/index.html
>
>I see usage of both "verified" and "verifiable"--albeit with a
>preference to the former.
>
>Yours, David...

In conversation, most people prefer (unconsciously, at least) phrases
with fewer syllables over phrases with more syllables. "Verified" is
three syllables; "verifiable" is five. "Voter-verified" rolls off
the tongue more easily than "voter-verifiable". It takes a conscious
effort (at least in the beginning) to use the longer phrase as opposed
to the shorter one. And informal writing will follow informal speech.

The same reason explains why many people say "paper trail" instead of
"paper record" or "paper ballot"; it's one syllable shorter (unless you
say "tray-ull" ;-) ), so easier to say. It takes discipline to say the
longer phrase.

Note that I'm not arguing for the shorter phrases; I'm just explaining
why they seem to dominate usage. If OVC wants to standardize on
"verifiable" and "ballot", it'd be easy for someone to grep(*) them
(automated search? find-and-replace?) for "verified" and "trail", and
replace them with the approved terms. But the general public will
continue to use the shorter words in spite of this.

--Steve

(*) "grep" is so much easier to type and say than the alternatives.
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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:14 2004

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