Passive Voice

In Spanish they frequently use passive voice in such a way that blame is avoided. Instead of “I broke the vase,” they say “The vase broke.”

I realized that we programmers do this all the time when we talk about our own mistakes. Instead of “I programmed it wrong,” we say “There was a bug.” You can infer that the bug is our fault, but there’s a very definite connotation here that bugs happen, don’t blame us.

And we do it with each other’s stuff, too: “Oh, Bill’s script didn’t work because there was a bug.” That’s a lot easier to understand than “Bill didn’t account for division by zero, and he has no input validation.” Easier to understand, AND nicer for Bill.

(At times, though, I wish I could give folks the technical reason and have them understand — explain how the bug in the system was on the outsourced-company’s side, rather than mine, so stop looking at me that way, etc.)

In other news: my head hurts.

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