There was recently quite a bit of interesting discussion about a Language Log post on the semantics of "this page intentionally left blank". Levi Montgomery posted that it reminded him of "the instructions to 'Lather, rinse, and repeat,' apparently ad infinitum." I was struck by this comment, because historically and upon careful thought, I don't find anything recursive about this statement.
Levi apparenty interprets this injunction as being of the form (A --> B --> return to A). This would indeed lead to infinite hair washing, with the user lathering and rinsing until the eschaton. But I rather have always interpreted the instruction as having the form ((1: A --> B); repeat 1). Thus there's no recursive loop, merely a second execution of the two events A and B. Or to phrase it another way, for me there is no way of deriving wide scope of repeat so that it includes lather, rinse, and itself. For me it can only apply to lather and rinse. I'd be interested to find out if more people get Levi's interpretation or mine, and why.
Jerome Stueart interview (pt. 3)
6 months ago