Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Pro Python Propaganda

snipped from today's paper
Guido originally named his new computer language after the British comedy troupe Monty Python, and those allusions will remain hardwired into the literature.

Monty Python's Flying Circus was the full name of the long- running BBC TV show, and this association with "circus" forms a natural bridge to this word "geek," with "geekdom" being roughly synonymous with "hackerdom" in early 21st century parlance, i.e. the dominion tasked with and/or occupied by those responsible for keeping the infrastructure going, at the software level especially.

"sideshow freak," 1916, U.S. carnival and circus slang, perhaps a variant of geck "a fool, dupe, simpleton" (1515), apparently from Low Ger. geck, from an imitative verb found in North Sea Gmc. and Scand. meaning "to croak, cackle," and also "to mock, cheat." The modern form and the popular use with ref. to circus sideshow "wild men" is from 1946, in William Lindsay Gresham's novel "Nightmare Alley" (made into a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power).

Somewhat paradoxically, many geeks-to-be get stereotyped as nerds and/or dorks in high school, which connotes "unpopular" and/or "without relevant social skills," whereas a mature geeks is expected to know how to use social networking applications to collaborate on open or closed source projects with peers around the world. A geek is expected to perform circus tricks involving lots of ephemeral tools and unseen helpers (more like a stage magician).

Given OLPC kids won't necessarily be clued in to the British comedy scene right from the get go, we can't count on Python stirring up those particular associations right off the bat.

They might just think of a snake and, depending on the surrounding culture and lore, that'll play out in various ways. Some ethnicities are more snake-averse than others, whereas some families keep Pythons as treasured pets and/or protect them in the wild.

Likewise in USA schools, you'll find teachers and administrators who unconsciously and spontaneously associate Python with scary gang imagery (despite python.org's friendly-enough logo) plus think only in negative terms about "hackers" as those who disobediently hack in to places where they don't belong (the DoD for example).

In the meantime, their geek-to-be students may seem rebellious and "up to something" in terms of studying stuff on their own, Googling after hours for example.

These self-motivated kids aren't content to "just get by" vis-รก-vis the typically unchallenging material that passes for "mathematics" in mediocre classrooms. They're troublemakers in that sense.