"If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself"
(By the way, do you spot the misunderstanding of the quote? It states that you must be able to explain it to a six year old, not that you should always express yourself that way)
And Morten was surprised by the negative reactions of some of the public, as he explains in this post.
I just had to take exception, and did it in the reply that follows.
No, sorry, I cannot agree. I do concur that one should express his ideas in the simplest possible way — but not any simpler, lest the ideas get distorted.
Besides, I think simplicity is a feat one should achieve because he thinks about it — not because it’s been given a crippled tool that forces its owner to do strange stuff. In a way, that (leaving stuff out of a tool because you don’t believe in, or know about, it) is a typical approach of some brand of software design — the email application that assumes that your username will always be equal to your email address, last sighted on windows, is an example.
Not to mention the many fields of endeavour where the original Einstein’s quote is, quite simply, bullshit. Art prose. Poetry. “Serendipity”. Formulating the sentence “Swift is a Multi-paradigm (Protocol-oriented, object-oriented, functional, imperative, block structured) programming language” without bizarrely contorted and extended paraphrases (which I should be probably expressing as “weirdly restating its meaning using other words in much longer sentences” — see?). This happens because unusual words (especially when domain specific) synthesize required prior knowledge that would make expression unbearably long winded without making it any simpler, or clearer. Einstein himself wrote “covariant bidimensional tensor” when needed — how does that come out under the 1000 words rule?
Also, I find the idea that simple words enable clear expression incredibly naive — germane to the idea that good coding style is a feature of the programming language, rather than the programmer’s. Confused thought breeds confused and confusing expression, vocabulary breadth notwithstanding. (See Gargantua and Pantagruel for amusing examples)
Does all this amount to make your editor a tool apt to “dumbing down” (rather than simplifyng) communication? Yes, I am afraid it does.
And one last point. English (my second language) has accepted into its fold words that come from many other tongues: latin, french, german, indian, native american. The subset of english words that are familiar to— and therefore immediatley usable by — an Italian is widely different from the one a German — or a Jamaican — would recognise. I have the idea that this alluring diversity within linguistic unity fares rather poorly under 1,000 words rule.
And I really loved what Brian Luff said (same thread):
"... although Orwell may have said
Never use a long word when a short one will do
he clearly did not mean
Never use a long word.
As far as I know, he never said
Why use a long word when you can use a lot of short ones instead?
How many short words would I need in order to suggest that your premise is an absurd extrapolation?"