sift

doveric

Member
Chinese
Dear all, I am not certain with the usage of "sift" and hoping some of you could kindly enlighten me. For example:

a) I sift A from B
b) I sift A out of B
c) I sift out A from B

For a, Is it objectively mean A will be retained?
For b, Is it objectively mean A will be discarded and B be retained?
For c, Is it grammatically correct and identical to b?

Thanks in advance for answering.
 
  • lgs

    Senior Member
    American English
    I think both a) and b) would work (I think c) is a little awkward). But they all mean the same thing.

    Think of A as gold and B as sand - You are sifting gold out of / from sand.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Or, you could sand sift out of gold.

    The action of sifting means using a device with small holes to separate two powders or solids. One of them falls through the holes as the device is shaken or the material is agitated by a moving arm. The other does not.

    The material that falls through the holes is "sifted out." That could be the less valuable one or the more valuable one; the action of sifting does not specify. They could also be the same material: one sifts flour before baking to remove lumps from it. The pure flour falls through the sifter into a bowl, the lumps and any foreign matter are left behind (or the lumps may be broken up by the mechanical action of sifting).
     

    doveric

    Member
    Chinese
    Thanks you guys' replies.

    So, if I want to use "sift" as an analogue of extracting some useful information (say, Info A) from a sheer volume of data (say, Database B), is it better to say "sift (out) Info A from Database B" than saying "sift Database B from A"? My logic is that the resultant information should be relatively small compared to the size of the irrelevant information.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In discussing databases - thank you for providing context! - it is more common to say "filter."

    (Originally, a filter is a device that allows liquids or gasses to pass but retains solids above some minimum size. If you have a car or a motorcycle, it has an oil filter to remove contamination from the engine oil. It almost certainly has a fuel filter and an air filter as well, and perhaps more.)

    You would filter A from database B.
     

    doveric

    Member
    Chinese
    In discussing databases - thank you for providing context! - it is more common to say "filter."

    (Originally, a filter is a device that allows liquids or gasses to pass but retains solids above some minimum size. If you have a car or a motorcycle, it has an oil filter to remove contamination from the engine oil. It almost certainly has a fuel filter and an air filter as well, and perhaps more.)

    You would filter A from database B.
    Thanks again. The reason for using "sift" is that I am not sure if the database contains the required information or not, much like when one trying to sift gold from sand.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Thanks again. The reason for using "sift" is that I am not sure if the database contains the required information or not, much like when one trying to sift gold from sand.
    So you are trying to determine if something exists in the DB.

    GF..
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    On further reflection, the word one would use for this depends on the type of database.

    If it's an Access database, people use filter.

    If it's a/an* SQL database, people use select. This is technically wrong, since the SELECT statement selects database columns, not rows; one needs to add a WHERE clause to select rows - but that's the word.

    If it's a FileMaker Pro database, people use find.

    If I didn't know what kind of database is it, I'd use either of the first two.

    In all cases, the word that describes the process is the same whether or not anything is found. If you just want to find out if A exists in B, not to retrieve it if it does, you might write something like "test B for A."

    ____________________
    *"a" if you pronounce it "sequel," "an" if you pronounce it "ess-kyoo-ell."
     
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