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metasyntactic variable
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grammar Strictly, a variable used in metasyntax, but
often used for any 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.
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. At MIT (but not at Stanford),
baz dropped out of use for a while in the 1970s and '80s. A
common recent mutation of this sequence inserts qux before
bazola, ztesch: Stanford (from mid-'70s on).
foo, bar, thud, grunt: This series was popular at CMU.
Other CMU-associated variables include ack, barf, foo, and
foo, bar, fum: This series is reported to be common at
fred, barney: See the entry for fred. These tend to be
toto, titi, tata, tutu: Standard series of metasyntactic
variables among francophones.
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/.
blarg, wibble: New Zealand