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    Clarity of meaning: was [10918] Automatic deviation calculation by electronic compasses
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2009 Dec 5, 11:53 -0000

    The recent exchange between Wolfgang Koberer and Michael Dorl, with a
    somewhat-unwarranted intervention from Frank Reed, may perhaps lead to a
    profitable discussion, so I've changed the threadname.
    Let's assemble a few facts first, that can, I hope, be agreed on.
    The topic of navigation is, in most respects, a technical matter, which
    calls for clarity and precision of meaning.
    Navlist has members from a variety of backgrounds and localities, with the
    majority from North America. It includes many whose native language isn't
    English (some of those reside in North America) and in general, all have to
    get on, as best they can, in reading and writing English. We
    English-speakers are privileged, in that others have to adapt to our
    language. We have to do our best to follow what they say. And
    non-Anglophones have to follow, as best they can, what's written in English.
    In general, we make allowances and get along pretty well, between us all.
    Sometimes, even the differences between American English and English English
    raise problems for the likes of me, and presumably give create difficulties
    to Americans who try to follow my own words, even if I am trying
    ever-so-hard to make them clear. The biggest snag that I find is the
    tendency of some posts to be written in folksy American idiom. That style of
    write-as-you-speak may have its own charm, but can introduce difficulties of
    understanding to those from outside that society. Those special-meanings are
    seldom taught in a language school, and often fail even to cross the
    Atlantic to Britain. And no doubt, the same thing happens in reverse. I try
    to exclude cricket-metaphors, common in England, from my own postings, but
    may not always succeed.
    Another problem stems from those whose postings are replete with US Navy
    jargon and acronyms, making no attempt to help outsiders to understand their
    words. To me, some of those attempts at communication might just as well be
    written in Greek. My guess is that even non-Naval American-speakers find
    many such postings hard to follow, and give up.
    Of course, some technicality is necessary, and indeed desirable, even though
    many listmembers may struggle with it. In our field, we can't do without
    trig, though no doubt some readers are turned off at the first sight of a
    cosine. I suffer in the same way as soon as I see any matrix-mathematics.
    But postings can't be "dumbed-down" to exclude such technical content. We
    have to take in what we can.
    Now, for the posting in question, [10901], by Joe Schultz, which exemplifies
    several of these problems.
    I have tried to follow what, exactly, Joe had meant in an earlier posting
    when he used the idiom "sweet spot" in the context of positioning a fluxgate
    compass. It was not a term I understood. It's given rise to a few emails,
    back and forth, but even so, I'm still unclear about his meaning, and
    awaiting a reply.
    And the difficulty of understanding wasn't all one-way. Previously, I had
    written in [10807]-
    "I can see that a remote-reading compass can be put at the top of a mast
    (with which warships bristle)..." and had thought those words would be
    understandable, to Americans and others. But somehow, those words had no
    meaning to Joe, who wrote-
    "No idea what "warship bristle" means - an armchair term?".
    Just as Wolfgang had difficulty with the meaning of the phrase "armchair
    term", so did I, although I presumed it was intended to be somewhat
    I took it, from the generally dismissive tone of the whole posting, that Joe
    resented having his words questioned by others. This came up, particularly,
    in this paragraph-
    "Do steel vessels exist in your area, George?  Ferries, commercial fishing
    boats, yachts, etc?  How about taking a trip down reality lane and finding
    them?  I'll bet at least some have autopilots.  And at least some of those
    use a fluxgate or equivalent as direction input.  How are their sensor
    assemblies mounted in the real world?  You'll see, if you choose to look and
    ask, the successful installations are pretty simple, and rarely high on the
    mast as you (and Bowditch-2002) think are needed."
    Most Navlist posters, with one or two exceptions, manage to say what they
    wish without introducing such personalised unpleasantness. It wasn't
    necessary. However, by now, I'm quite immune: such words provide only
    encouragement. That paragraph required no response, relating to autopilots
    as it did, in which there is not the same need for precise headings as in a
    steering-compass, as was pointed out by another listmember. It was
    irrelevant. So it got no response.
    To sum up, the lessons I would draw are that posters should avoid personal
    comments, avoid using language that's intended to offend, and when they
    choose their words, bear in mind that they should be understandable to
    I hope other members will join in on this thread.
    contact George Huxtable, at  george@hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    NavList message boards: www.fer3.com/arc
    Or post by email to: NavList@googlegroups.com
    To unsubscribe, email NavList+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com

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