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ERROR SIGNALLING FUNCTIONS
A part of Paul's note that I agree with is that, in retrospect, I don't
think that we want to have error-signalling forms that take unevaluated
string args. In most cases we will want to stick some constant string
in there, but there may well be cases where we want to evaluate any such
arg. A function that goes off somewhere to find a string in the proper
natural language is just one such application. Since the string arg in
ASSERT is used as a syntactic marker, we would have to change that
function's syntax to fix this -- the pre-string arguments would have to
be encased in a list or something like that.
We probably should think about fixing this in the second edition -- it
is not of such earth-shaking importance that we should consider
unfreezing edition 1 to put this change in. As others have pointed out,
ASSERT is just a convenient abbreviation, not a primitive.