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What's your favourite non-word?

by George_Sherston (Vicar)
on May 27, 2002 at 21:50 UTC ( #169652=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Often one needs a random word to put into an array, enter in a db or whatever, to test a programme. Of course, 'foo', 'bar' and 'baz' are old faithfuls. In some circles "Lorem ipse..." is popular.

But when I looked over a db for which I've been testing a new interface, I noticed most often I used 'goom' or some variant - 'gum', 'goomp', 'gumbo' (though never 'gump'). What can this mean?

I'd be most entertained to know what your standby nonsense words are. Maybe we can start a new language. Maybe we can even learn something about our unconscious minds...

... although now I think of it, I realise that the source for my word is rather prosaic, though satisfactorily geeky. It's from a logic puzzle I read ages ago in a book by Martin Gardner, with which many will be familiar:

You go to the proverbial island where there are two clans, one of which always tells the truth, the other being made up of habitual liars. You meet two people, evidently from different clans, but you don't know which. You ask one of them "are you a truth teller?" He replies (and this is the bit I remembered) "Goom!" And the other one says "He says yes - but he's a liar."

So who's who?

And... there are two answers. The classical answer is that the first guy's lying. Because if the second guy's lying, then the first guy actually said "no", truthfully. But he couldn't answer "no" truthfully, because he was asked "are you a truth teller?", and if he were speaking truthfully he'd have been saying "yes".

The fuzzy logic answer is that "goom" doesn't mean "yes", and in fact it doesn't mean "no" either; it means "sorry I don't speak English" or something. And the second guy is lying to confuse you.

George Sherston

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by dreadpiratepeter (Priest) on May 28, 2002 at 03:14 UTC
    I've always used Fred. Because it's the punchline to my favorite joke.

    This grasshopper walks into a bar and orders a margarita.
    The bartender looks at him and says "You know, we have a drink named after you."
    The grasshopper replies, "You have a drink named Fred?"

    Thank you, I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

    "Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever."
      Fred is also my favorite. This comes from my first job as a firmware developer many moons ago; I copied the practice of the somewhat curmudgeonly senior programmer on the team. He explained that Fred was an acronym for "F'in' Ridiculous Electronic Device."

      Interesingly (?) this came up in the context of picking a good bit pattern for use as a signature for a data structure. "Fred" was exactly two bytes long and easy to spot in hex dumps. (He used a 4 for the r.)


Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by chromatic (Archbishop) on May 27, 2002 at 22:12 UTC
    I occasionally use the name of she who must not be named in tests. Then, after I started attracting students, I used their names. If you dig deeply, you can find them (as well as friends, pets, and other weird cultural references) in my articles. I'd like to think it makes code examples a little more entertaining. (Oh, and it inspires my students to continue to excel.)
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by vladb (Vicar) on May 27, 2002 at 22:06 UTC
    Me thinks this is a largely cultural question. Throughout my personal experience as both an amature hacker and 'professional' programmer (a hacker who codes for a living :), the only most common word I have dealt with was -- *SURPRISE* *SURPRISE* -- 'foobar' or a few unimpressive variations of this.

    I don't know if this is a problem with me (lacking that spirit of a rebel :), but I couldn't come up with any better alternative to a word that is on the one hand silly and purposeless, yet, on the other hand, very much useful in fitting voids for which my poor brain finds it hard to find any 'descriptive' alternative. Yes, I should admit that for the most part the word 'foobar' makes my day. I'd use it in virtually any script, database table, shell command, tutorial, documentation that I write. It is also pretty common in many books/articles on programming that I have read. On top of this, it seems as though my lack of imagination it has become an indispensible word for me. ;/? At one point, I did try to find an alternative word or a phrase in order to break the 'taboo' (yes, one might use the word to describe a 'thing' strongly imposed by the mainstream culture etc). Unfortunately, I couldn't get used to such things as 'test' or 'asdf', no matter how much I'd tried, heh ;)

    $"=q;grep;;$,=q"grep";for(`find . -name ".saves*~"`){s;$/;;;/(.*-(\d+) +-.*)$/; $_=["ps -e -o pid | "," $2 | "," -v "," "];`@$_`?{print"+ $1"}:{print" +- $1"}&&`rm $1`; print$\;}

      For filenames I like single lower case characters. Tho I'll double them occasionally 'xx', 'zzz', etc.

      For input strings I like 'qwer', 'asdf', 'zxcv' and the like.

      A diabetic unix sysadmin friend liked 'donut', a former supervisor like 'zinj', a former (VMS guy) coworker liked 'blap'.

      -- -ken rich "I'm continually AMAZED at th'breathtaking effects of WIND EROSION!!" (Zippy)
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by grep (Monsignor) on May 28, 2002 at 04:29 UTC
    I tend to use my name or other monks name's quite a bit in my code :)

    seriously - I do end my modules with "grep" (a hubristic habit I picked up from Ovid).

    I'm not really a Seinfeld fan, but I tend to use $yada.

    If I'm in a fairly amibivlent mood I use $blah.

    These are not the monks you are looking for, move along
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by tjh (Curate) on May 28, 2002 at 00:45 UTC
    Wierd thing to think about...

    I've tended to use musician's names, bands, etc:

    there are many more... lol
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by mrbbking (Hermit) on May 28, 2002 at 11:53 UTC
    blarg. flup. dink. snarg.

    I like words that are not words, but that I can pronounce. I think I like non-words that end in 'arg' as well, though I'm wholly uncertain why. Maybe because those three letters are under the left hand. I've heard that many placeholder-type words are chosen for ease of typing like that (dreadpiratepeter's 'fred' fits the bill.)
    Good placeholders, bad passwords.

(kudra: What's your favorite foo?) Re: What's your favorite non-word?
by kudra (Vicar) on May 28, 2002 at 15:34 UTC
    My rather dull choices (foo, bar) were mentioned in this thread.

    Scary moment last week: In normal conversation, I truncated a sentence by replacing the last several words with 'foo' because I was too lazy to say what I meant. Luckily the person I was speaking to was also a programmer so no explanation was needed.

    - kudra (why can't my speech have tab completion?)

Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by Biker (Priest) on May 28, 2002 at 08:26 UTC

    The most commonly used dummy word in French must be 'toto'.

    Everything went worng, just as foreseen.

      that can go "titi" "tata" "tutu" "toti" and so on .... That's how you recognize a french programmer ;]
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by shotgunefx (Parson) on May 28, 2002 at 10:33 UTC
    Outside of foo,bar and base I have a tendency to use obscene language (Especially when I'm frustrated with a problem). I'm trying to break this long ingrained habit for fear or it somehow not removing one and having it appearing on a user's screen.


    "To be civilized is to deny one's nature."
      May I suggest weaning yourself off the hard stuff by using the methadone of bad language?, words like:
      • drat
      • blast (just like Obi-Wan!)
      • bother
      • darn
      I say, gosh, Great Scott, don't you know?

      George Sherston
        I use three main sets interchangeably.

        @array1 = qw/foo goo moo loo hoo zoo/; @array2 = qw/one two three four five/; @array3 = qw/aye bee cee dee ee eff/;
        I always use @array3 when I am populating a random hash, i.e.

        $hash'A' = 'aye';
        $hash'B' = 'bee';
        and so on.

        Helgi Briem

Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by amarceluk (Beadle) on May 28, 2002 at 13:05 UTC
    I sometimes use "blart" and "feh," two words I say aloud when I'm in a bad mood. ("I have to work late and then go home and do laundry. Blart.")

    When I'm in a better frame of mind, I use the names of my pets, or the names of authors and literary characters.

    "Abby-somebody. Abby-normal."
    Young Frankenstein
      Your 'blart' is very close to one I use when I'm frustrated... 'blarg!'. It must be a CB/irc thing.
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by simon.proctor (Vicar) on May 28, 2002 at 07:51 UTC
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by schumi (Hermit) on May 28, 2002 at 14:28 UTC
    I tend to use nonsense-words like "gaga" which, from (Swiss) German, I'd probably translate to "pathologically silly". But then, I sometimes even just hit the keyboard to produce random string - wouldn't wanna call them words, now - , and invariably find myself astonished when they prove to be hard to reproduce without moving 10'' closer to the screen...

    Sometimes I also just use dialect words for things lying (on|around) my desk, when I just don't feel creative at all.

    I quite like the idea to use other people's names. I only wonder whether you could tell from the way you use them, how much you like a person - I for one probably wouldn't use the name of a close person when I'm increasingly - how should I say? - ennervated.


    There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. - George Carlin

Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by ignatz (Vicar) on May 28, 2002 at 15:14 UTC
    I've noticed paco creeping into my code more and more.
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by chaoticset (Chaplain) on May 28, 2002 at 18:07 UTC
    I played Infocom games long ago, and although I knew about 'foo', 'bar', 'baz', etc., they never felt right to me, as if somehow I was desecrating their memory. (Yeah, I know, I have issues.)

    Anyway, I tend to end up using whatever comes to mind. 'blarg' (or 'blargh') has been a favorite lately, mostly because I've been reading 3 finger salute in my spare time, and my standard "I need two values here" words are 'monkey' and 'noodle'.

    Preferably, when it's a type of data, say names, I always try to come up with the funniest-sounding thing, say "Hubert P. Hamsterlicker, Sr." or "Bertram German Wallaby". Needing dates, nonsensical values such as "99/74/-5" both fill space and provide values that can aid in data validation. Needing regular English text, I string together nonsensical but vaguely disturbing concepts, much like the word salad of a psychotic: "The English deputy authorized another vicious piranha, but undersea stock values were going down."

    Sure, it takes a little time, but it's mildly entertaining.

    You are what you think.

      Oh, I'm a helpless 'blah' addict. Not just in my code either! Oh sure, there's always the need for stuff like this...

      blah( $blah, \%blah );

      ...but I use it during testing and such as well. Don't try to convince me you've never pulled a './ > blah' before ;)! I can't help resorting to animals at times also, $monkey is a long-time favorite of mine.

      The Fallen Monkey

Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by penguinfuz (Pilgrim) on May 28, 2002 at 14:36 UTC
    Many time I simply use the "home row" random combo, something like: dfasdkl
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by Reverend Phil (Pilgrim) on May 28, 2002 at 20:53 UTC
    I'm one of those rare and wonderful souls who uses gump. Not the forest brand though. More of a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas kind of gump - Johnny Depp sliding don't take any gump from these people down the side of his cigarette here and there. I'm also a major supporter of slurp. If I'm reading a data file into an array, I tend to always slurp it, especially in quick dirty ugly one-time scripts, though properly error checked and happily strict, it will still appear in my long-running production code.
    open(A, "gump.txt); @slurp = <A>; chomp @slurp;
    Food sounds are yummy.
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by snowcrash (Friar) on May 28, 2002 at 15:22 UTC
    I usually start with the obvious words, that make no sense but are nice to pronounce (foo, bar, baz, boing, ...). Sometimes I use a little austrian slang (haeusl, schas) or nonsense words derived from slang, german first names (karl, heinz, bertl). There are even some non-words that have become pretty common among people at Vienna University for Technology (nuppel, plok...)

Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by Aristotle (Chancellor) on May 28, 2002 at 14:53 UTC
    blah bleh blub. If that's not enough, I use random stuff like the well known asdf or whatever keys I happen to punch at that point (random example: paoaj). I only really use foo and bar for identifiers - mostly in documentation (referring to $foo and bar() f.ex).

    Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by hsmyers (Canon) on May 29, 2002 at 02:23 UTC
    Not so much my favorite, just an observation. 'Foo' is often paired with 'bar', but I believe that the canonical spelling is 'Fubar' when the two are concatenated. It is my recollection that 'Fubar' is a fairly precise military term meaning "F*cked Up Beyond All Repair" with a varient substitution of Recovery for Repair.


    "Never try to teach a pig to sing…it wastes your time and it annoys the pig."
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by sfink (Deacon) on May 29, 2002 at 19:50 UTC
    I often find myself needing families of nonsense words. A friend uses foo, boo, hoo, goo, etc. I tend to use fwoing, boing, going, doing, etc., or sometimes boink, doink, etc. I went through a bubbly phase -- gobble, bobble, obble, wibble, blibble. When really pressed for time, I often drop back to xx, xxx, yyy, or even a, b, x. When feeling creative, I'll try to think of random, unrelated English words: closet, ribbed, petunia, garlic, fish. ('fish' works surprisingly well.) I used to use Star Control II alien races: pkunk, spathi, utwig, supox, VUX. Once I tried using emotions -- hate, fear, happiness, joy, anger, loathing -- but they were too distracting.

    I have also found that it is useful to have your own vocabulary of nonsense words, so you can recognize your stuff. If I find die if ++$fwoing > 42, I know somebody cut & paste my code. It's also good when running across random files littering a file system. It helps to know whether you're supposed to recognize what something is. If it's named foo, anybody could have created it, but if it's gronk, I know exactly whose it is (I only know one friend who uses that one.)

Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by grremlins (Initiate) on May 28, 2002 at 16:43 UTC
    I tend to use thud, grunt, fred, argh, and glob (especially for arrays).
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by CukiMnstr (Deacon) on May 28, 2002 at 17:38 UTC
    I tend to use foul language, since that was the standard practice in college (in Costa Rica). So it is common to find slang words for "excrement", "penis", "fart" and so on...

    It was funny when I worked as a TA, to find all those words scattered around the code in the assignments ;)

Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by Mr. Muskrat (Canon) on May 30, 2002 at 04:30 UTC
    Okay, I admit it... I too use the usual suspects, foo and bar. As well as curse words when I'm having a trying day at work. When I'm in a more wimsical mood, I use: xyzzy, woot, zoinks and the like. :)
    print "Xyzzy! It no worky!" if $err, exit(1);
    print "Woot! It works!\n";
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by NaSe77 (Monk) on May 30, 2002 at 11:35 UTC
    i tent to use things like : 'toto', 'titi', 'tata', ... or very often also 'test', 'temp' or simplement 'bla' .... never used 'foo', 'bar' or things like that ...

    but perhaps simplement because i dont speak english , i dont know


Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by ChuckularOne (Parson) on Feb 17, 2004 at 13:51 UTC
    I tend to use "argh". I'm usually frustrated by the time I start making up words. :)
Re: What's your favourite non-word?
by edan (Curate) on Feb 17, 2004 at 14:03 UTC

    I myself generally stick to 'foo', 'bar', and sometimes 'baz', being a traditional type. But here in my country, many people use 'kuku', for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me.

    edan (formerly known as 3dan)

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