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What is the meaning of "spat out" in the following sentence?

And in Titelbaum and Kopec’s Reasoning Room, one agent knows that her reasoning process spat out P while the other knows that her reasoning process spat out not P. (Source)

"spat out" is the past form of "spit out". But here "spat out" seems not to be a past form.

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  • This is an indirect metaphor relating to early computers with punch cards. The cards would come flying out of the machine. The machine was said to spit them out. To spit out means to produce very quickly. To produce automatically. spit, spat, spat are the parts of the verbs.
    – Lambie
    Dec 26 '17 at 17:11
  • Do you have evidence for this, @Lambie? It seems unlikely to me, because, first, the result of a calculation us usually displayed or printed rather than output on cards, and secondly, when I have seen cards emerging from a card-punch, they don't come flying out individually, but as a stack in a hopper. To me the metaphor seems more likely to refer to a machine manufacturing smallish objects that get ejected into a bin at the end.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 26 '17 at 17:39
  • To spit out anything just means that it do it quickly. I was merely addressing a likely origin. No, I obviously cannot "prove it". There are old films that show cards tumbling out of machines; not going into the hopper, Falling all over the floor. As this is reasoning, and computers "reason" with the logic fed into them, that was my idea here. Not objects per se.
    – Lambie
    Dec 26 '17 at 17:46
  • spat out is most definitely the past form: the simple past.
    – Lambie
    Dec 26 '17 at 17:48
  • As a side note, this is a really interesting paper.
    – Andrew
    Dec 26 '17 at 18:04
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It is a past form: the reasoning process has already given its answer. It could equally have been perfect (has spat out P).

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  • That is actually why I think it should have been "has spat out p" in this example if it was the past form of spit out.
    – Sasan
    Dec 26 '17 at 17:22
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    There are very few cases where a present perfect cannot be replaced by a simple past (the reverse is not true). I would find the perfect more natural here, but the past is certainly possible.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 26 '17 at 17:43
  • Here, they are describing a single past occurrence, spat out is right, and has spat out would be a mistake here in this text. It's a one-off thing.
    – Lambie
    Dec 26 '17 at 17:54
  • It depends on context, @Lambie. I haven't looked at the original paper, but the excerpt given could easily mean that they are still holding or contemplating the results of the process, in which case it is past event with present relevance and the perfect will be justified.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 27 '17 at 22:56
  • @Colin Fine Well, perhaps you might take a look at the paper then. As this approximates logic, I'd go with simple past in this case.
    – Lambie
    Dec 27 '17 at 22:59

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