de Programandis? What’s that mean?

Here is a blog about the cutting edge of computer programming, and the title is in Latin!  What are you thinking, Jules?

There is a thing in Latin, called a Gerund.  That’s when you take a verb (something which describes motion), and then make it into a noun – a thing.  Like, when you go through the act of painting to make a painting.   Or when you go out walking for a walk.  Or when you think a thought.  Or when you perform a performance.  That’s gerunds.

When your computer operates, it’s doing something.  The code inside the computer orchestrates and synchronises a complex dance.  But we never get to see that dance.  What we see is our program, our source code, which is a static thing: words on a screen.  It’s not even a snapshot of the live, executing program (that’s what we get when we halt the program with a debugger), it’s more like a map of the entire execution process all rolled together.

A dynamic, living process, condensed into a thing.  Verb become noun.  The very essence of a gerund.

But wait: there’s more!  Because these programs of ours: they don’t spring into existence fully-formed.  It takes hours, days, weeks of painstaking craftstmanship to gradually build them into their final form (in as much as any program is ever finalised).  Making a program is a process.  It’s programming.  It’s a verb. [1]

I’m willing to bet, if you’re reading this blog, that you’ve done this a few times.  You’ve got a few programs under your belt.  If you look back through your career, however long or short it is, you have participated in several such efforts.  There it is again: ‘efforts’.  Another noun, another gerund.

So, look:

  • Verb: the processes going on inside a computer, or a program’s progressing from one state to the next.  We don’t quite have a word for this, because it’s so hard for us to see, but it’s the source and object of all we do.
  • Noun: A program.  The thing you write.  The thing that is executed by the the computer.
  • Verb: To program, to construct a program.
  • Noun: A word we don’t have: the gerund of “to program”. like a performance.  A ‘programmance’, if you will

This is just easier in Latin:

  • procedere: to progress
  • programus: a program. [2] [3]
  • programare: to program.
  • programandum: a ‘programmance’.
  • de Progamandis: on Programmances.   About what it is we programmers do, you and I.  About our accumulated skills and wisdom and expertise.  About reflecting on our experience and anticipating our future.  And (just as an actor is defined by his performances) about what has made us who we are.

So, now you’ve seen three things:

  • You’ve found out what this blog is about
  • You’ve learned a little bit of Latin
  • You’ve seen that even complicated things become easy if you pick the right language.

Footnotes:

[1] Funny thing, though it’s been going on since classical times, there isn’t a formal term to describe this gerund-in-reverse: a verb that’s been made out of a noun.  Words like ‘painting’, ‘wallpapering’, ‘beagling’ (from Marillion’s “Garden Party”), or ‘programming’.

[2] I made this up, by the way.  Romans didn’t write programs.

[3] Here’s another word for you that encodes a great idea: the gerund of ‘procedere’ would be ‘procedendum’.  But ‘procedendum’  isn’t the same thing as ‘programus’!  Actually, it’s the result of the ‘procedere’: a map of what happened, an execution log, a post-mortem summary, a trace of execution.  Tell me: how often have you wanted one of those, but hadn’t known what to ask for?

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