# [r-t] On the null change: What's in a name?

Don Morrison dfm at ringing.org
Fri Jan 2 17:41:25 UTC 2015

```On Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM, Don Morrison <dfm at ringing.org> wrote:
> I didn't want to use descriptive names to start, though, as they can
> rather prejudice things prematurely.

​On Tue, Dec 30, 2014 at 8:59 PM, Matthew Frye <matthew at frye.org.uk> wrote:
> I struggle to see why so many seem to have such a conceptual problem
> with this [the null change].

Having thought on this some more, I think a huge part of the dicomfort
folks have is simply the arbitrary labels we've historically attached
to things.

Imagine that the activitiy we engage in is called not "change ringing"
but "Ω-ing".

How would we describe it? We'd say something like that when we're
Ω-ing we ring bells over and over again in various orders, each
time ringing each of the bells exactly once. We'd give a name to such
a ringing of all the bells in a certain order. We'd call it a ρ. We'd
pretty quickly need to describe the process of getting from one ρ to
another. We'd say there's a permutation that tells us how one ρ is
derived from its predecessor, and call it a δ. We note that the
physics of our swinging bells limits one bell to moving at most one
place between consecutive ρ's. And so a δ would be a permutation that
takes one ρ to another subject to the constraint that no bell in the
two ρ's has to move more than one place. No one would have any trouble
with the identity δ.

I think the problem is simply that because of the historical accident
that we call Ω-ing "change" ringing folks have gotten themselves all
wrapped up in connotations of the English word "change" that have
nothing to do with the δ's and ρ's of Ω-ing. It's not unlike the
strange assumptions non-ringers sometime make (at least on this side
of the Atlantic), thinking "change ringing" must have something to do
with banging coins together. It can be difficult, but I think if we
can shed our baggage that has nothing to do with δ's and ρ's of Ω-ing
we'll see that there really is nothing at all scary about the null
change.

--
Don Morrison <dfm at ringing.org>
"Men retain the prejudices of their childhood, their country and their
age, long after they have discovered all the truths necessary to
destroy them."      -- Condorcet, _Sketch for a Historical Picture
of the Progress of the Human Mind_, tr June Barraclough
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