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Syntactic Confectionery Delight


by malaga (Pilgrim)
on Feb 02, 2001 at 23:13 UTC ( #56067=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


Foo or any such word used this way is formally known as a metasyntactic variable. Eric Raymond, probably the world's greatest authority on foo and other metasyntactic variables, also lists qux, waldo, fred, xyzzy, and thud among others that are occasionally used. Although foo is the canonical metasyntactic variable, Raymond notes that cultures outside the United States have their own preferences. Fred, barney, and wombat seem common in the U.K. Toto, tata, titi, and tutu reportedly are used by the French. Blarg and wibble are used in New Zealand.

The origin of foo seems wrapped in the mists of time, but Raymond observes (and we remember) that in Bill Holman's comic strip of the 1930-50 era, Smokey Stover, the letters "FOO" commonly appeared, unexplained and as a kind of running gag, on license plates, in picture frames, and on the backs of sandwich board signs.

(nothing new, but thought it was interesting enough to post)

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: foo
by seeker (Curate) on Feb 02, 2001 at 23:48 UTC
    It may well be that Foo is a word that has more than one ancestor. When used in conjunction with bar, it is most likely derived from FUBAR, Fouled (or some other F word) Up Beyond All Recognition.

    A good source of information on this is David Levy's book, The Hackers.

      I believe FUBAR as used in the US military actually refers to 'Fucked up Beyond All Repair' - courtesy of an ex-US Navy friend of mine - although seeker's version may be used in different sections of the military or even Atlantic vs. Pacific fleet (The most notable source of this variant being the appalling film 'Tango and Cash', starring Kurt Russel and Sylvester Stallone).

      There is a graded system of descriptors - SNAFU (Situation normal - All fucked up) and FUBAR being two of them.


Re: foo
by robsv (Curate) on Feb 03, 2001 at 00:41 UTC
    I've also heard it used as a mangling of "If the shoe fits, wear it" (into "If the Foo Sh*ts..."). The Jargon File has a pretty comprehensive etymology here.

    - robsv
(jeffa) Re: foo
by jeffa (Bishop) on Feb 03, 2001 at 03:06 UTC
    Ok, so FUBAR begat Foo and Bar, but what about Baz?

    My favorite quick temporary variable names are 'Hfuhruhurr' and 'Uumellmahaye'


    (the triplet paradiddle)
      Oh the brains! Oh the brains!!!

      A ++ for you and that number that got cooked.
      I just watched that DVD today! What a classic!
Re: foo
by I0 (Priest) on Feb 03, 2001 at 01:54 UTC
      People I know have a preference to "dodeli", "dadeli" and "doh". This is probably a local phenomenon and not something that can be said for the whole of Sweden.
      Most likely caused by us watching excessive amounts of Simpsons episodes.
Re: foo
by extremely (Priest) on Feb 03, 2001 at 05:13 UTC
    Recently I tried on $tanj, $smeg, and $belgium. Made up cursewords from SciFi books/shows. =) I got fussed at for using real cursewords...

    $you = new YOU;
    honk() if $you->love(perl)

Re: foo
by Malkavian (Friar) on Feb 03, 2001 at 00:57 UTC
    I'd have to agree with seeker about foo being from FUBAR.
    However, a quick peer on everything for foo shows up quite a lot more interesting stuff..
    Personally, my own are foo, blah, wibble and blij.


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