As a software developer I periodically find that I need to dabble with a bit of poetry (yes one is a consequence of the other – sort of – see my post about software developer traits for an explanation that almost makes sense). However, every time I start dabbling I find myself getting annoyed very quickly. Poetry is difficult and I don’t necessarily mean writing it, even reading it is difficult.

Well, not the actual reading part, but trying to puzzle a meaning out of the twisted phrasing, allegory and the absolutely stupendous number of hoops that people jump through to get the darned things to rhyme. And are they always successful? Well, you can be the judge, here is a “fine example” called Gap Toothed Know-It-All.

I am thinking English is just not a very flexible language, there are all these rules and regulations you have to follow, or the grammar police will eat you alive. Well, I spit in the face of the grammar police, I say, why should I adjust to English? English should be forced to adjust to my needs. We don’t need to do any major changes, but just tweak it a little bit. I’ll demonstrate with an example.

I want to write a poem which will convey the following thoughts:

I like walking in the park on sunny days. I find that it makes me more productive and focused at work.

Here is what the poem would have to sound like without tweaking English in any way:

I spend my days in silent wandering
Through verdant glades of oak and pine
And if the sun would smile upon me
I’d find myself on cloud nine

New strength would flow into my limbs
With heart and purpose I would roar
Prepared for the ordeals before me
And primed for the challenges once more

Not too bad, gets the meaning across, but is too long-winded and so much unnecessary allegory! Would you even know what I was trying to say if I hadn’t told you?

Let us try this again, but now we can tweak English to suit our purposes:

The walkies in the park are good
The sun is tops and all that jazz
My productivity improod
And so do my focusazz

See, this is much better, short and sweet and almost no extraneous words to clutter up the verse. The meaning is completely transparent, if you didn’t know what I was trying to convey you’d easily be able to work it out almost exactly.

So, I threw in a little bit of slang and made up some new words by “tweaking” the endings of some existing ones to facilitate rhyming, so what? The funny thing is that the meaning of the words I “tweaked” is still obvious. Everyone can easily tell what the un-tweaked versions of the words are.

To summarise, doing some minor creative surgery on the English language allows us to not only maintain clarity and create more compact verse, but also to completely retain the meaning of all the tweaked content :).

So I put this to you, why shouldn’t we tweak language? I tweak my code all the time to make it more compact, more concise and more readable. And yet here is poetry, coming in and doing the exact opposite. I tell you, it conceptually undermines the structure, clarity and higher productivity that we as software developers are trying to bring to the world. And anyway it surely is against some sort of best practice somewhere. Right? Am I right???

This post has been marked with my funny flag:

For other example of flag usage see this post marked with my sarcasm flag. It is so sad that I have to do this, but otherwise some people would undoubtedly take this post seriously and try to sic the grammar police, poetry police and who knows what other police on me.