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Re: [ox-en] Re: Gifts?

On Wed, 16 Oct 2002, Thomas Uwe Gruettmueller wrote:

Hi Graham!

However, I looked up the word "gift" in my proprietary 
dictionary, and it claims that the word "gift" can also be used 
in a sort-of figurative meaning for things that are just 
extraordinary cheap or easy (e.g. "The exam was a gift."). 

Can you confirm this, and might this be the case, here?

Yes, the dictionary is right. If you're looking at secondary meanings like
this, there are quite a few. Another one is 'she has a gift for
mathematics', meaning a natural talent (in this case I imagine originally
meaning a gift from god). I can't see much relevance in either meaning to
free software here, though (there is a little, if you assume that a talent
is useless unless used, so that result of the gift has to be passed on). 

I think the meaning related to free software comes mainly from other/older

The Hyde book starts with a example (supposedly true, but this is
from memory so I may have the details wrong):
Some of the first European colonists of America are invited to a tribal
council. They smoke a beautiful soapstone peace-pipe together, and
at the end their hosts present them with the pipe as a gift. Very pleased,
they take it back and have it displayed in a wooden case.
Some years later, the man who kept the gift of the pipe is visited
by another group of American Indians. At the end of the meeting, the 
indians wait expectantly, but nothing happens. In the end, the
man understands that they expect to be given the pipe.

The phrase 'indian giver' (it's an american phrase, and I'm not so someone
will have to tell me if this is wrong) means someone who gives a gift and
then expects it back, so it wasn't a real gift. This is the European's
view of what happened: a gift involves a free transfer of property rights.  
The American Indian view is that the man didn't understand that gifts are
to be given, and tried to steal a gift by making it his private property.

It's in this sense that free software is a gift: it's not to be kept
by anyone, but passed on, hopefully in an improved state. Science
should also be a gift, (though it has lately been increasingly privatized)
so the term can be used to cover many things beside software.

I suppose 'gift' in this meaning is a specialised term, like 
'selbstentfaltung', which needs a context to explain it...




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