Presumably it was a decision to optimize the common case. Most programmers wont name variables things like $a and $b just cause single letter variables are bad practice. (Although $i, $j, $k, and $x, $y, $z have a looong tradition of being used in computer programming and mathematics so generally speaking they are exempted from the "use descriptive variable names" advice) Otoh _some_ name was needed for the variables that would be used by sort, and since they would probably be used a lot, and since a good descriptive short name for them isnt exactly obvious I think the decision was the right one.
my friends call me, usually because I'm late....
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