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A beginner interjects


The problem, as you indirectly note, is that this whole thread has FAQ
status.  There's nothing here that hasn't been said a million times on
newsgroups and in classrooms.  Notice I avoided taking Vanier's bait
on his (re-)definition of standard terms.  The problem is, until now,
there hasn't been a good FAQ on this topic.

There is now.  I'd recommend that anyone interested in truly
understanding types -- or, at the very least, in having a conversation
about types with an academic -- work through at least sections 1-3 and
section 5 of Benjamin Pierce's new book, "Types and Programming
Languages" (no, not available on-line).  I don't agree with everything
it says, but I disagree with relatively little.  More to the point, it
lays down the law on a whole bunch of topics that really aren't worth
discussing.  And, of course, it establishes a common terminology so we
can at least make sure we're not speaking at cross-purposes.

I won't claim that the book obviates this entire discussion -- it
doesn't -- but it would have helped us get to the nub of the matter a
lot, lot sooner.