that old GNU/Linux argument

Patrick O'Callaghan pocallaghan at
Sun Jul 20 19:26:08 UTC 2008

On Sun, 2008-07-20 at 17:32 +0200, Björn Persson wrote:
> Patrick O'Callaghan wrote:
> > trying (fruitlessly it seems) to get some
> > consistency in the use of terminology,
> That's what I'm trying to achieve too. Or if it isn't possible to get people 
> to agree on terminology, then I'd like to at least understand what people 
> mean when they use a word. To that end I'm asking people what they mean when 
> they say "Linux", but so far I'm not getting very clear anwers.
> Would you like to tell us where *you* draw the line? What is part of Linux in 
> your mind, and what is not part of Linux?

Actually I try not to draw lines if at all possible, because you then
get into absurd discussions as to whether X+epsilon should be considered
still X, but X-epsilon is not X (for some X). Human language doesn't
work that way and forcing it into that mould is the province of lawyers
and thus best avoided. It's necessary when discussing license agreements
and contracts, but not otherwise.

In fact I doubt you can do it either, in such a way as to unambiguously
encompass everything you want to call GNU/Linux and unambiguously
exclude everything else. That's what "drawing a line" means, and I won't
go there.

Having said that, my *usage* of the term "Linux" encompasses any
accumulation of software that has a useful purpose and is constructed
around a Linux kernel. This includes GNU+Linux, X+Linux,
Fedora/Debian/Ubuntu/Slackware/etc. and the system that runs my wife's
RAZR-2 cellphone.

        'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful
        tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor
        'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean
        so many different things.'
        'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -
        that's all.'
        	Through The Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

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