Meaning of METASYNTACTIC VARIABLE in English

METASYNTACTIC VARIABLE

transcription, транскрипция: [ n. ]

A name used in examples and understood to stand for whatever thing is under discussion, or any random member of a class of things under discussion. The word foo is the canonical example. To avoid confusion, hackers never (well, hardly ever) use `foo' or other words like it as permanent names for anything. In filenames, a common convention is that any filename beginning with a metasyntactic-variable name is a scratch file that may be deleted at any time.

Metasyntactic variables are so called because (1) they are variables in the metalanguage used to talk about programs etc; (2) they are variables whose values are often variables (as in usages usages like "the value of f(foo,bar) is the sum of foo and bar"). However, it has been plausibly suggested that the real reason for the term "metasyntactic variable" is that it sounds good.

To some extent, the list of one's preferred metasyntactic variables is a cultural signature. They occur both in series (used for related groups of variables or objects) and as singletons. Here are a few common signatures:

foo , bar , baz , quux , quuux, quuuux...:

MIT/Stanford usage, now found everywhere (thanks largely to earlyversions of this lexicon!). At MIT (but not at Stanford), baz dropped out of use for a while in the 1970s and '80s. A commonrecent mutation of this sequence inserts qux before quux .

bazola, ztesch:

Stanford (from mid-'70s on).

foo , bar , thud, grunt:

This series was popular at CMU. Other CMU-associated variablesinclude gorp .

foo , bar , fum:

This series is reported to be common at XEROX PARC.

fred , jim, sheila, barney :

See the entry for fred . These tend to be Britishisms.

corge , grault , flarp :

Popular at Rutgers University and among GOSMACS hackers.

zxc, spqr, wombat:

Cambridge University (England).

shme

Berkeley, GeoWorks, Ingres. Pronounced /shme/ with a short /e/.

foo, bar, baz, bongo

Yale, late 1970s.

spam

Python programmers.

snork

Brown University, early 1970s.

foo , bar , zot

Helsinki University of Technology, Finland.

blarg, wibble

New Zealand.

toto, titi, tata, tutu

France.

pippo, pluto, paperino

Italy. Pippo /pee'po/ and Paperino/pa-per-ee'-no/ are the Italian names for Goofy and Donald Duck.

aap, noot, mies

The Netherlands. These are the first words a child used to learn to spellon a Dutch spelling board.

Of all these, only `foo' and `bar' are universal (and baz nearly so). The compounds foobar and `foobaz' also enjoy very wide currency.

Some jargon terms are also used as metasyntactic names; barf and mumble , for example. See also Commonwealth Hackish for discussion of numerous metasyntactic variables found in Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

Jargon File English vocabulary.      Английский словарь жаргона.