The Yuan requests your support! Our content will now be available free of charge for all registered subscribers, consistent with our mission to make AI a human commons accessible to all. We are therefore requesting donations from our readers so we may continue bringing you insightful reportage of this awesome technology that is sweeping the world. Donate now
Imaginary Friends 5: ‘The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers’
By Nigel Morris-Cotterill  |  Feb 07, 2023
Imaginary Friends 5: ‘The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers’
Image courtesy of and under license from
This time, the four imaginary friends gather together once more to consider the importance of precision in language as they examine vocabulary, grammar, and inflection. Imprecise language can be especially problematic with AI, which can easily get confused and spit out answers or take actions that are incorrect.

Location: A fireside

B: I have been watching TV, old TV, recent TV and new TV, and my experience has been to reinforce what we have already said several times: that changes in language have, of late, been to militate against clarity.

A: That’s true, but I think that it is important to realize that clarity in language is cyclical. Latin is a very structured language with a small vocabulary. French is highly structured but with a massive vocabulary that makes it difficult for foreigners to learn. English is far less structured than French, but rules of grammar were - literally - being beaten into British schoolboys as recently as the 1960s, though for some reason girls did not get the same treatment, at least in relation to grammar.

C: It has also got a lot to do with standards of education, ambition - one’s own and that of one’s parents - and of the line of work one goes into.  And let us not forget that English was remarkably fluid in most fields until the late 19th century. There is very little consistency even within the works of single authors: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Walpole, and Pepys come to mind. Even though their command of language was excellent, it lacked structure and form.

D: I have always been fascinated by the fact that a writer of prose, a poet, an academic and a technical author are subject to wildly different approaches when it comes to the use of English.

B: Shakespeare’s quote about killing all the lawyers is a case in point: Long after it was written, people are still arguing over how to interpret it. No one seems to think that it is just a statement. Some say that it means one should kill those who are inventive, who adapt the words of the law to make the law do their bidding. Meanwhile, others say that it means one should kill those who think that the word of the law should be interpreted

The content herein is subject to copyright by The Yuan. All rights reserved. The content of the services is owned or licensed to The Yuan. Such content from The Yuan may be shared and reprinted but must clearly identify The Yuan as its original source. Content from a third-party copyright holder identified in the copyright notice contained in such third party’s content appearing in The Yuan must likewise be clearly labeled as such.
Continue reading
Sign up now to read this story for free.
- or -
Continue with Linkedin Continue with Google
Share your thoughts.
The Yuan wants to hear your voice. We welcome your on-topic commentary, critique, and expertise. All comments are moderated for civility.