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Old October 2nd 05, 10:02 PM
Floyd Davidson
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"Peter" wrote:
Floyd Davidson wrote:

It does not necessarily have to be that one grew out of the
other. However, I *don't* see them as totally unrelated.

Ok, I'll bite. What relationship do you see between the term
"prime lens" used to mean the main lens as opposed to a supplementary
lens or attachment, and the term "prime lens" used to mean a
fixed focal length lens?

Clearly that came about because fixed focal lenses are
typically, for any given price better lenses than a similarly
priced zoom lens. Prime of course can mean the one which is the
first in quality, or the first in favor, or the first to be
used, or "primitive" as in the least complex.

It is just an extension of the concept that a "normal" or
"standard" lens is called a "prime lens". And since there are
already at least two very good terms for that meaning, it does
seem rather natural for the meaning of "prime" to migrate to a
somewhat broader scope.

Rather, it is a logical progression.

Again, what is the logical connection between the two?

Again... (You are aware of the various meanings of prime and of
how these various terms have been used in this field, right?)

And the newer meaning
does not necessarily negate correctness of the older meaning
any more than and older meaning makes a new one incorrect.

Of course. Though having a word with multiple meanings or
an unclear meaning within a technical lexicon could create
problems. That's part of why I think "prime lens" in the
sense of "fixed focal length" while a useful bit of slang until
someone comes up with something better, shouldn't be regarded
as a part of the proper technical vocabulary of photography.

Well, until some other term comes along, you don't have any
choice. The *fact* is that is is here, today. And it probably
won't be going away any time soon either.

So? I could probably come up with a single paragraph that used
at least 4 or 5 different meanings for the word "prime".

It would be interesting to see such a paragraph in which
at least four out of the five uses had no obvious connection
to the concept of "first" indicated by the word "prime."
I would like to see you try.

Why would it have to be where four out of five have no
connection to the etymology of the word? The use of the word to
mean "fixed focal length" has it roots in that. Your merely
proposing a ridiculous shift of the goal posts.

that make the more recently evolved meanings incorrect just
because there is also an older meaning?

No, but creating additional meanings for an existing technical
term could be a problem.

A lot of things "could be a problem". So what?

*Not* creating some such term would definitely be a problem.

It makes a lot of sense to deprecate
the use of a new meaning for a technical term if it is seen as
beginning to erode the usefulness of the established
technical use of the term.

You are welcome to try, but tilting at windmills, barking at the
moon, and a number of other similar activities would be more

Language just doesn't work that way. As the late Steve Allen
used to say on TV about timing being everything in comedy,
context is everything in word usage.

Right, if context is not actually everything, it is a lot of it.
I've got no strong objection to "prime lens" as a handy bit
of slang to refer to fixed focal length lenses, but if it starts
to look as if some people are treating it as if it were a proper
part of the technical lexicon then it may be time to object.

Wrong. That is when it is already far too late to object. All
you get then is someone like me making fun of you for refusing
to accept reality... :-)

It's a done deal. We might as well get used to it.

I'll grant that if you had asked me 20-30 years ago if I thought
it would be a good idea to use that term in that way, *I* would
have been on your side at that time. But undoing history isn't
something I'm up to. But that happens with a lot of words. For
example, I really really wish that "hacker" was not equated with
"cracker" the way it is today. But it is. And on a more
technical note, we hear about high speed T1 or T3 lines in the
telephone industry all the time... and almost every time you
hear someone say T1 or T3 what they are talking about is a DS1
or a DS3. We live with it though...

FloydL. Davidson
Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska)