CD tilde home

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Thomas Pynchon's recent novel Bleeding Edge is set in New York City, after the dot.com bust of 3/10/2000 and shortly before the World Trade Center attack of 9/11/2001.

The central figure is Maxine Tarnow, who runs a small fraud-investigation outfit called Tail 'Em and Nail 'Em, and many of her clients and her friends are associated with the failed, failing, or somehow-surviving start-ups of Silicon Alley. As a result, a lot of the local linguistic color in this novel is geekish in nature.

For example, at one point, late in the novel, Maxine is wandering through the online worlds of DeepArcher, a sort of immersive shared-reality video game without any scores. DeepArcher is important to the plot because it was created by some of Maxine's friends, is the subject of an acquisition attempt by Gabriel Ice of hashslingerz, the villain of the piece, and at this point has just been open-sourced by its developers.

Open source has certainly brought some changes. Core is teeming these days with smartasses, yups, tourists, and twits writing code for whatever they think they want and installing it, till some other headcase finds it and deinstalls it. Maxine goes in with no clear idea of what she’ll find.

Onto the screen, accordingly, leaps a desert, correction, the desert. Empty as the train stations and spaceport terminals of a more innocent time were overpopulated. No middle-class amenities here, beyond arrows to let you scan around the horizon. This is survivalist country. Movements are blurless, every pixel doing its job, the radiation from above triggering colors too unsafe for hex code, a sound track of ground-level desert wind. This is what she’s supposed to pick her way across, dowsing a desert which is not only a desert, for links invisible and undefined.

Not yet in despair, off she goes, zooming and swiveling, up and down dunes and wadis of deep purity finely touched with mineral tints, beneath rocks and ridgelines, empty stretches in which Omar Sharif continues not to come riding in out of a mirage. It should be just one more teen-sociopath video game, except it’s not a shooter, so far anyway, there’s no story line, no details about the destination, no manual to read, no cheat list. Does anybody get extra lives? Does anybody even get this one?

She pauses in the uneasy melismas of desert wind. Suppose it’s all about losing, not finding. What has she lost? Maxine? Hello? To put it another way, what’s she trying to lose?

[...]

Structures begin to emerge ahead, carrion birds appear in the sky. Now and then, far off, human figures, robed and hooded, still, wind-ruffled, taller than the perspective would call for, stand and watch Maxine. No attempts at approach or welcome. Ahead, past the baked-mud district that now rises around her, she can feel a presence. The sky changes, beginning to pick up saturation, edging into SVG Alice Blue, the landscape acquiring a queer luminosity, moving toward her, picking up speed, rushing in to envelop her.

"SVG Alice Blue" is indeed one of the 147 color names defined in the Scalable Vector Graphics Specification. (SVG 1.0 was only released by W3C on 9/4/2001, so only someone seriously plugged in to web-design geekery could have known about "SVG Alice Blue" at the time of Maxine's exploration; and I'm not sure even that the 147 color names in SVG 1.1 were part of the 1.0 release; but this is a cyber-fantasy in which mere secular time is a fungible quantity, after all…)

There's a technical allusion earlier in this passage that requires a bigger metaphorical leap: "the radiation from above triggering colors too unsafe for hex code". How could colors be "too unsafe for hex code"?

Well, one common way to represent digital colors is in terms of 8-bit (0-255) levels of Red, Green, and Blue; and these RGB triplets are most conveniently coded as six hexadecimal digits, e.g. SVG Alice Blue is #F0F8FF — Red=240, Green=248, Blue=255. The full range of in-principle available colors is then 224 = 16,777,216.

So what's "too unsafe for hex"? There are real-world colors that a given monitor can't create, but any modern monitor will emit some light spectrum in response to any 24-bit RGB color specification, whether expressed in hex or any other base. However, back in the day, as Wikipedia explains, there was a notion of "web-safe colors":

At one time many computer displays were only capable of displaying 256 colors. These may be dictated by the hardware or changeable by a "color table". When a color is found (e.g., in an image) that is not one available, a different one has to be used. This can done by either using the closest color, which greatly speeds up the load time, or by using dithering, which results in more accurate results, but takes longer to load due to the complex calculations.

There were various attempts to make a "standard" color palette. A set of colors was needed that could be shown without dithering on 256-color displays; the number 216 was chosen partly because computer operating systems customarily reserved sixteen to twenty colors for their own use; it was also selected because it allows exactly six equally-spaced shades of red, green, and blue (6 × 6 × 6 = 216), each from 00 to FF (including both limits).

Now 216 is a lot smaller than 16,777,216 — but Pynchon's idea here seems to be that Maxine is experiencing colors that are "unsafe", i.e. not directly realizable, even in the 24-bit color space. His psychophysics is questionable, I think, but his amygdala is in the right place. This metaphor is right on target for a somewhat freaked-out web-design geek in 2001.

It's not clear, however, just who this web-design-geek observer/narrator is. There's a lot of free indirect speech in this novel, e.g. the opening paragraph:

It’s the first day of spring 2001, and Maxine Tarnow, though some still have her in their system as Loeffler, is walking her boys to school. Yes maybe they’re past the age where they need an escort, maybe Maxine doesn’t want to let go just yet, it’s only a couple blocks, it’s on her way to work, she enjoys it, so?

But Maxine herself is a forensic accountant, who hangs out with web designers but doesn't do anything of the sort herself.  It would be unexpected for her to know about web-safe colors or SVG color names, but a lot of cyber-concepts and cyber-lingo have somehow leaked into her interior monologues.

Sometimes the cyber-lingo is a little off, and it's hard to tell whether this is because Pynchon himself got it wrong, or because he's depicting a character who got it wrong.

There's an interesting example of this not-quite-right local linguistic color at the end of the novel's description of a party sponsored by an internet company that Gabriel Ice has recently acquired:

Ms. Maxine Tarnow-Loeffler
The pleasure of your company is requested at
The First Annual
Grande Rentrée Ball, or
Geeks’ Cotillion
Saturday night, the eighth of September, 2001
Tworkeffx.com
Open Bar
Clothes Optional
<ha ha only serious/>

In search of clues, Maxine enlists her ex-husband Horst to accompany her to this event. The party-description passages are expectedly fun — Pynchon is good at this sort of thing:

One cannot help noticing a certain emphasis tonight on instant nostalgia. Nineties irony, a little past its sell-by date, is in full bloom again down here. Maxine and Horst are swept past the bouncers at the door in a vortex of fauxhawks and fades and emo hair, mops and crops and Japanese princess cuts, Von Dutch trucker-cap knockoffs, temporary tattoos, spliffs hanging off lips,Matrix-era Ray-Bans, Hawaiian shirts, the only shirts in sight with collars, except for Horst’s. “Good grief,” he exclaims, “it looks like Keokuk around here.” Those in earshot are too hip to tell him that’s the point.

Even though the dotcom bubble, once an eye-catching ellipsoid, now droops in vivid pink collapse over the trembling chin of the era, perhaps no more than a vestige of shallow breath left inside it, no expense tonight has been spared. The theme of the gathering, officially “1999,” has a darker subtext of Denial. It soon becomes clear that everybody’s pretending for tonight that they’re still in the pre-crash fantasy years, dancing in the shadow of last year’s dreaded Y2K, now safely history, but according to this consensual delusion not quite upon them yet, with all here remaining freeze-framed back at the Cinderella moment of midnight of the millennium when in the next nanosecond the world’s computers will fail to increment the year correctly and bring down the Apocalypse. What passes for nostalgia in a time of widespread Attention Deficit Disorder. People have pulled their pre-millennial T-shirts back out of the archival plastic they’ve been idling in—Y2K IS NEAR,ARMAGEDDON EVE, Y2K COMPLIANT LOVE MACHINE, I SURVIVED . . . Determined, as Prince can be heard repeatedly urging, to party like it’s 1999.

The Soviet-era sound system, looted from a failed arena somewhere in Eastern Europe, is also blasting Blink-182, Echo and the Bunnymen, Barenaked Ladies, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and other sentimental oldies while vintage stock quotations from the boom-years NASDAQ crawl along a ticker display on a frieze running the full perimeter of the ballroom, beneath giant four-by-six-meter LED screens onto which bloom and fade loops of historical highlights like Bill Clinton’s grand-jury testimony, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” the other Bill, Gates, getting a pie in the face in Belgium, the announcement trailer for Halo, clips from the Dilbert animated TV series and the first season of SpongeBob, Roman Coppola’s Boo.com commercials, Monica Lewinsky hosting SNL, Susan Lucci finally winning a Daytime Emmy for Erica Kane, with Urge Overkill’s song of the same name deejayed in as accompaniment.

Or again, with the obligatory Pynchon pop-song pastiche:

Reaching the top floor at last, Eric and Maxine enter the godfather of postmodern toilets, a piazza-size expanse of Belgian encaustic tiling in ocher, pale blue and faded burgundy, recycled from a mansion on lower Broadway, with three dozen stalls, its own bar, television lounge, sound system, and deejay, who at the moment, while a six-by-six matrix of dancers perform the Electric Slide across the antique tiling, is playing Nazi Vegetable’s once-chartbusting disco anthem

In the Toilet [Hustle tempo]

Such a weird ’n’ wack-y feeling, wit’ your
Brains up on th’ ceiling, in the
Toi-let!
[Girl backup]—In the toi-let!
Coke and Ecstasy and weed,
Never know when you might need
Them in the toi-let
(All in-that, toi-let!)
Just come in to take a peek, end up
Stayin’ for a week, down in the
Toi-let! . . .
(Toilet! Toilet!)
[...etc....]

An indeterminate number of pages later,

Does Nora Charles ever have to put up with this sort of thing? Even Nancy Drew? The parties they go to, it’s all catered hors d’oeuvres and beautiful strangers. But let Maxine try to step out and enjoy herself a little, forget it, it always ends up like this. Weekday-type obligations, guilt, ghosts.

For some reason, however, she manages to stay all night and close the joint down. Horst, perhaps from secondhand smoke, regressing to his old party-animal ways, is affably all over the place. Maxine finds herself tangled in and presently refereeing nerd disputes she can’t understand a word of. She nods out in the toilet once or twice, and if she dreams at all, it’s hard to separate from the great invisible wheeling around her, decelerating, board-fading to all-but-silent black and white, till it’s time at last to CD tilde home.

"CD tilde home"?

Maybe this was a current expression on Silicon Alley in 2001 — please let me know if you have any knowledge or evidence of such a usage. But I've never heard it before , and it looks to me like an ungrammatical combination of three half-understood pieces of unix lingo.

The command "cd" (which needs to be lower case — it won't work in upper case) is short for "change directory", and is normally followed by an absolute or relative path name. Used without a following argument, its default is the value of the HOME shell variable (which would be written out as $HOME, and whose value is normally the user's home directory).

In unix, the "tilde" (i.e. the grapheme ~, ascii U+007E) is a shorter way of referring to the user's home directory in pathnames. Thus if my home directory is /home/myl, then ~/.profile translates for me to /home/myl/.profile.  The command "cd ~" will take you home, just as the command "cd" does.

(In URLs, the tilde will sometimes find a user's web directory, e.g.  http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/, but I don't think this is relevant here.)

And "home", aside from being where the heart is, is the term for the unix directory associated with each user. In most modern unix systems, this is normally /home/USERNAME; in Mac OS X, it's normally /Users/USERNAME.  There's a shell variable $HOME (must be all caps) whose value ought to be that directory, and so the command "cd $HOME" will take you to your home directory, just as "cd" and "cd ~" will.

But "CD tilde home"? On a standard unix system, as of 2001 as well as today, the command "CD" will get a response like

-bash: CD: command not found

Interestingly, the cd command ignores all arguments except the first one, so e.g.

cd /usr/bin foobar

will simply take us to /usr/bin. As a result,

cd ~ home

will take us home — but so will "cd ~" or just plain "cd".



33 Comments

  1. Dan Schmidt said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    I read "CD tilde home" as "(perform the command) 'cd ~' (thus going) home". Of course CD should be lowercase, though.

  2. Matt Gardner said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 9:00 am

    I would have understood "it's time at last to CD tilde home" to be a play on "it's time at last to X home", not "it's time at last to X". So, yes, it's still a bit off in that the CD should be lowercase, and the tilde isn't strictly necessary, but it's a little better than "cd ~ home".

  3. AdamC said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 9:05 am

    I read it as following the pattern of "cd ~username" to change to a user's home directory. In this case it would change to the home directory of the user named "home". Doesn't seem like a popular username, but I didn't notice that strangeness at first glance.

  4. Jill said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 9:07 am

    I agree in essence with what people have said above with only one detail to add: my circle of unix sysadmins in the western US (Colorado and California) pronounces the ~ symbol most often as twiddle, so the directory ~matt/bin would be pronounced 'twiddle matt slash bin'.

    The 'tilde' pronounciation wouldn't among this group be wrong; it just wouldn't be the most usual way to say it.

  5. Brett said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    @Jill: When I was taking freshman E&M, a lecture on AC circuits was interrupted by a discussion of what to call the squiggle atop the complexified voltage. The professor (from California) said "twiddle," but most of the students wanted "tilde."

  6. Craig said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    Could the CD have been capitalized by an errant editor? It must take forever for editors to dialogue with authors like Pynchon on when a capitalization here or there is intentional or when it's a mistake in the manuscript.

  7. languagehat said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 9:49 am

    I agree with previous commentators that "home" is not part of the tilde phrase; the expression "CD tilde home" is parallel to "go home" (and this was so apparent to me when I read the quote that I was surprised to find Mark reading it differently). And I agree with Craig that CD was probably capitalized by an editor (not so much "errant" as "not possessing the technical knowledge that would have avoided the erroneous change"); look for it to be lowercased in the next edition.

  8. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 9:57 am

    "Twiddle" and "tilde" were the usual pronunciations when I was a physics student in the '80s, but I knew one professor who compromised on "tiddle".

  9. Craig said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 10:01 am

    @languagehat
    I'm definitely waiting to read the next edition then ;)

  10. Ellen K. said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 10:42 am

    It seems odd to me that some of you are considering "CD" for "cd" an error, yet no one has suggested that "tilde" for "~" is an error. Having the word tilde instead of the symbol suggests to me that the author is representing speech here (or at least how it sound in our head). Thus, using capital letters is appropriate, since that's the standard way we write letters when we say the letter name. If he were trying to write actual unix code, he wouldn't have written "tilde", it seems to me. Okay, I don't know unix, but I think I understand enough to safely conclude that.

    (Interesting off topic linguistic side note. I originally wrote "If they were…" and then, after looking for the name of the author, changed "they" to "he", and thus found myself with a grammatical distinction I hadn't initially made".)

  11. Joe said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    "…the radiation from above triggering colors too unsafe for hex code, a sound track of ground-level desert wind…"

    This could be a result of overmodulation where the video signal is too strong to be represented by the digital range of a pixel. The "sound track" associated with the hex-unsafe colors triggered by the "radiation from above" is probably the the buzzing you hear on certain monitors when graphics with sharp edges are rendered (resulting from sharp transitions in signal strength).

  12. Mark F. said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

    In an episode of Frasier, Frasier Crane once referred to his "cigar humidor". My impression is that somebody who owned one would just call it a humidor. But I don't think the writers then were getting it wrong so much as trying to make it comprehensible to more people. This seems like the same sort of thing.

  13. Judith said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

    I still have a bookmarklet in my browser to instantly generate a HTML grid of the 216 web-safe colours, and that sentence made sense to me as such immediately, and I didn't realize at all that it might read like gibberish… But then, I was indeed a 29yo web developer in 2001.

    The capitals in "CD tilde home" threw me, too, and I agree with others they're probably the work of an editor, but not the formulation. You say that the URL scheme for a user's web directory is irrelevant, but on the contrary, as an ex-webdev who was never a proper UNIX geek, that expression immediately conjured for me the idea of my "web home", my http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/ equivalent. Of course this is because I'm creating a confusion between a user's web directory and their home directory, but I think it's at least interesting to note that Pynchon might have done something similar to arrive at this choice of phrase.

  14. KeithB said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    Mark F:
    Mike Johnston on "The Online Photographer" muses about that:
    http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2013/09/open-mike-connotation.html

    How much does understanding the referents affect evocative language?

  15. MikeA said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

    Actually, "CD" will work if you have IUCLC set, which you can still do on some systems by logging in with an uppercase only username. EG:

    [REDACTED]$ UNAME -A
    LINUX REDACTED 2.6.32.45-GRSEC-2.2.2-R3 #8 SMP MON OCT 10 13:33:17 PDT 2011 X86_64 GNU/LINUX
    [REDACTED]$ CD ~ HOME && PWD
    /HOME/REDACTED_USER

    Now, the sad thing is that I have had occasion to do so, albeit "IN ANGER" since well before 2001.

  16. Rubrick said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

    Regardless of how the erroneously capitalized "CD" got in there, I'm going to make an effort to start saying "I'm gonna tilde on home" when leaving parties.

    In an unrelated note, I found the word order of "No expense tonight has been spared" rather odd; I think most people would choose either "Tonight no expense has been spared" or "No expense has been spared tonight". I wonder what effect Pynchon was aiming for.

  17. Ted Powell said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

    In the paragraph beginning, "Open source has certainly brought some changes" somebody (author, narrator, character) is confusing "open source" with free-for-all (de)installs. One can obviously have the former without the latter, and the latter does not require the former as long as there is a known interface (not to be confused with source code) for plugins.

    BTW, the colour Alice blue (without the "SVG" appendage) has been defined since at least as far back as 1919, and has been defined numerically since at least as far back as 1987.

  18. MattF said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    As a matter of fact, the human visual system can 'see' colors that do not exist in nature:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=seeing-forbidden-colors

  19. Haamu said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

    Re "the radiation from above triggering colors too unsafe for hex code":

    Multiple senses of radiation, triggering, and unsafe are in play here.

    These colors would probably be representable in hex if someone were to promulgate an R-G-B-UV coding standard.

  20. Adam Cooper said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

    I think a editor's error is likely, because the book isn't copy edited well in general. I found a missing verb, two misspellings that can't really be argued to be authorial intent, and the 1969 NY Mets and the 1973 NY Mets being confused for one another. In fairness, the last one is in dialogue and could be on purpose, but it's not part of a pattern or brought up again, so I think it might be a mistake. Lowercase cd might be too much to hope for here.

  21. Garrett Wollman said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

    My copy of rgb.txt certainly lists the color "alice blue" and its alias "AliceBlue", so as the RGB triplet (240, 248,. 255) it almost certainly predates this millennium. It is a very, very unsaturated bluish.

  22. bianca steele said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

    In defense of "CD", one might argue that "CD" is correct, and the fact that the parser can't handle it as well as "cd" has no bearing on correct English usage.

  23. Nick Lamb said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

    Nobody else has mentioned it, so I guess will point out that as well as the idea of "web safe" colours (widely popularised but probably never actually "safe" in the intended sense for various reasons) there's another quite important way in which colours might be "too unsafe for hex code".

    The 16777216 colours of "hex code" don't in practice correspond in any particularly deterministic way to colour as perceived by the human vision system. Traditionally the chosen "hex code" would result in the corresponding 24-bit integer value in the display memory of the graphics card of the computer, and that would in turn cause a particular set of three voltage levels on the analogue VGA standard socket at the moment when this pixel was drawn. But the exact colour and intensity from the phosphors of the CRT monitor you were using might vary considerably from one computer to the next, not to mention the level of background lighting which is a big factor in human perception of colour.

    From a graphic design point of view it's desirable to have deterministic colour. Designers would like to know that they can get the colour on your screen to look, as much as possible, like the colour on their screen. The ideal way to do this is calibration. Each computer user would set up their lighting (and never change it, don't try this if you ever use a computer in daylight) and then use a sophisticated light sensor to measure the output of actual light from their display for different inputs. This information can be fed back into the computer's graphics chip as adjustments to ensure that everybody "sees" the same thing for #38f as much as possible regardless of different models of computer and light levels. Of course this ideal is never met in the real world. So an approximation, based on the assumption that most people with uncalibrated displays have a mid-1990s CRT monitor was invented. This colour space is called sRGB, and the web's "hex codes" are officially in the sRGB colour space.

    Now, you probably don't have a mid-1990s CRT monitor. As a result, the actual range of colours your computer can produce, although it overlaps with sRGB is probably an entirely different space, with the result that some colours you can see on your computer don't have a legitimate "hex code" and perhaps that there are some "hex code" colours which would be reproduce quite wrongly on your computer. Since most people, even on a desktop PC that sits in an office not primarily lit by daylight, do not calibrate their display, the result is a mess. Everybody ends up seeing the web with slightly different colours, the graphic designers tear their hair out but ordinary people don't care.

    We know that some colours are more affected than others. #FFFFFF Bright White looks OK everywhere, a subtle mauve #D473D4 might end up rather pink on some people's displays and rather blue for others. In the end, reluctantly, many branding people have given up trying to work with anything other than simple primaries. If your brand is "red" then at least it will appear some shade of red to everyone. Try for "apricot" and who knows what people will see.

  24. pfc said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

    Adding to the apparent consensus… I immediately and without conscious effort read that phrase with "CD tilde" as a verb and "home" as its object, analogous to "go home", "walk home", "drive home", "fly home", or "stumble home". That is, describing the action that resulted in arriving home (which cd ~ should certainly do). But that parsing might not be obvious to readers not familiar with a command line – who in the case of this novel, are likely in the majority.

  25. let’s cd twiddle over to Alice’s | Solitary Tract said,

    October 2, 2013 @ 6:47 am

    [...] Language Log, there is a discussion of unix and svg terms  used as slang in Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Bleeding Edge.  The novel is set in the [...]

  26. languagehat said,

    October 2, 2013 @ 8:51 am

    the 1969 NY Mets and the 1973 NY Mets being confused for one another.

    That's it, I'm boycotting the book.

  27. quixote said,

    October 2, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

    I've been around computers since the bad old days of punchcards and mainframes. I started using them for other work besides statistics in the days of Unix version 5. Not system V, version 5. The geeks here will know how paleocomputer that is. So, though not myself any kind of computer expert, I've been around them since forever. Nobody, but nobody, would ever say "cd ~ home" to mean "time to hightail it to a safe place." That's just pathetic technobabble meant to impress people of, I guess, Pynchon's calibre of computer savvy. (I know nothing about his savvy; only that the evidence is not good.) The rest of the technobabble wasn't much better. I thought respected writers were supposed to have a good ear for voice and all that good stuff. What happened?

  28. S.P.Zeidler said,

    October 2, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

    % cd /usr/bin foobar
    cd: Too many arguments.

    [(myl) What OS and shell?]

  29. Sravana said,

    October 2, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

    quixote: I certainly wouldn't say "cd tilde" out loud, but there are times I think in similar lingo. In fact, I have caught myself subvocalizing "cd dot dot" when, for instance, I realize I'm caught in a detail and need to step back to the higher level problem. I'm totally with Maxine on that last sentence. (Though I'd use "cd home", or maybe "cd wiggle", where wiggle is my internal-only verbal representation of ~.)

  30. Andrew said,

    October 2, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

    cd ~home (sans space) will take you to the home directory of a user named "home" — not that I really think that's what was intended :)

  31. Colin Fine said,

    October 3, 2013 @ 3:49 am

    I encountered Alice Blue as the name of a lighting gel in the theatre in the nineties. I wasn't aware that it was used in the computer graphics worldd.

    [(myl) "Alice Blue", as Wikipedia explains, "is a pale tint of azure that was favored by Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and which sparked a fashion sensation in the United States. The hit song 'Alice Blue Gown', inspired by Longworth's signature gown, premiered in Harry Tierney's 1919 Broadway musical Irene."]

    And though I think that case sensitivity is the biggest mistake the designers of Unix and C ever made (though understandable in the context of the hardware at the time ), it is so ingrained in Unix that I simply didn't recognise 'cd' in the text, and found it totally opaque.

  32. quixote said,

    October 3, 2013 @ 8:43 am

    "cd home"? Yeah, I could see that. "cd ~ home"? Nope. I like the "cd dot dot." I've never hear that before, but now I'll be using it (quietly, to myself) too.

    [(myl) "see dee dot dot" has been the normal way of verbalizing the relevant command in all the unix contexts that I've inhabited since 1975.]

  33. bianca steele said,

    October 3, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

    The idea that the phrase should be read as, "'cd ~' home," makes intuitive sense. The problem is that on first reading, it appears to be "'cd' ~," i.e. "'cd' home," and then the second "home" is extraneous. Though it eventually resolves to the correct parsing, there is still a sense that "cd ~" is thought of as a unit and that the equivalence of "tilde" and "home" was never noticed. In other words, the actual meaning of "cd tilde" wasn't internalized by the speaker. Whether by the writer or by the character is, as myl noted, difficult to say.

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