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Perl and Unix versus PERL and UNIX

by Anonymous Monk
on Mar 07, 2003 at 17:14 UTC ( #241187=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Okay, this may not be that big of a deal, but it kinda bothers me...

What is it with people spelling Perl, PERL and Unix, UNIX? I know for sure that Perl is not spelled with all caps. But I still see books and articles spell it PERL. What about Unix? Should it be all caps?

I know to avoid job ads for PERL programmers. Maybe I'm wrong, but if you can't spell Perl right, then why should I work for you?

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Re: Perl and Unix versus PERL and UNIX
by jasonk (Parson) on Mar 07, 2003 at 17:29 UTC

    In the case of Perl, I think it's just because of the acronym that people assume it should always be upper case. As for UNIX, the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing ( says:

    "Unix" or "UNIX"? Both seem roughly equally popular, perhaps with a historical bias towards the latter. "UNIX" is a registered trademark of The Open Group, however, since it is a name and not an acronym, "Unix" has been adopted in this dictionary except where a larger name includes it in upper case. Since the OS is case-sensitive and exists in many different versions, it is fitting that its name should reflect this.

      I write "Unix" almost exclusively for several reasons.

      • I find "*nix" rather silly:
        • It doesn't even match "Linux", "HP/UX", "AIX", "Solaris", "SunOS", etc.
        • I think it emphasises the differences between Unices (and POSIX and other Unix-like operating systems).
      • Writing "UNIX" would mean I was talking about something sanctioned by The Open Group, and I rarely talk specifically about such.
      • I was writing "Unix" before the The Open Group or Linux existed.
      I prefer to emphasize the similarities (and I try to ignore the differences when possible) and common heritage of Unix and the many systems that have been derived from it.

                      - tye (and I'm not afraid to admit when Unix falls short)

      Whether or not perl is an acronym (which has been disputed in this thread and others that I know of), acronyms often get adopted into the language as words unto themselves.

      For example, consider SCUBA and LASER. Both words started as acronyms, but by now it's very unusual to see them in all caps. You're a lot more likely to see them as regular words. e.g., "Shoot the scuba gear with the laser (to make unhappy divers)."

Re: Perl and Unix versus PERL and UNIX
by hardburn (Abbot) on Mar 07, 2003 at 17:45 UTC

    I suppose that taking a strict view of the language, it should be 'PERL' since it's an acronym. OTOH, the Internet has historically taken a more liberal view of the English language (and I don't just mean l33t sp33k). Shouldn't 'eBay' be 'EBay'? How about putting lowercase in the middle of an acronym (such as 'HoA')?

    Internet culture tends to allow a richer superset of the language than your High School English teacher does. You'll either accept this or you won't.

    Reinvent a rounder wheel.

    Note: All code is untested, unless otherwise stated

      It should be noted that expansion of 'perl' as an acronym was invented long after the language was named. I've never been entirely clear what the difference is between 'perl' and 'Perl', but I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as 'PERL'.


        From perlfaq1:

        Larry now uses "Perl" to signify the language proper and "perl" the implementation of it, i.e. the current interpreter. Hence Tom's quip that "Nothing but perl can parse Perl." You may or may not choose to follow this usage. For example, parallelism means "awk and perl" and "Python and Perl" look OK, while "awk and Perl" and "Python and perl" do not. But never write "PERL", because perl isn't really an acronym, apocryphal folklore and post-facto expansions notwithstanding.
        I beg to differ on the "long after the language was named" part, unless Larry named Perl long before releasing it in the wild. The manual page released with the very first version of Perl, version 1.0.0, says:
        PERL(1) PERL(1) NAME perl - Practical Extraction and Report Language


        It should be noted that expansion of 'perl' as an acronym was invented long after the language was named.
        True enough, but its understandable that people think its the acronym (instead of a "backronym" or "retronym") when the first thing they see in "perldoc perl" is:
        PERL(1) 2002-06-10 (perl v5.6.1) PERL(1) NAME perl - Practical Extraction and Report Language

      HoA is correct, because the o does not start a "significant" word. (Your English teacher will tell you that a word is "significant" for capitalisation purposes unless it is an article, a coordinating conjunction, or a short preposition. I forget whether "short" in this context means <5 letters or <=5 letters.) It is common for abbreviations to capitalise only the words that start a significant word: e.g., ComIntern, CoBOL[1].

      We don't write PERL, of course, because computer technical words are (usually) case-sensitive. This is a special rule, but that's normal in English. Nouns in the field of music follow a different declension if they end in "o"; words and abbreviations imported unchanged from Latin, unlike words imported from all other languages, are typeset in italics, except for mathematical terms imported from Latin (e.g., QED), which are not; et cetera, ad infinitum.

      The case-sensitivity in computer words allows for a significant amount of disambiguation: hence the distinction between Perl and perl, the lack of any confusion between BIND and activities with rope, and so on. The rule is universal among people who understand computer stuff in general, which is an ever-growing percentage of the population, and I am confident that it will become a permanent special rule like the others listed. But yes, people who don't know will continue to write "PERL", "Email", "pianoes", "ect.", confuse e.g. with i.e., and just generally write like wankers.

      1. CoBOL does not follow hackish rules because (like RPG) it is not a hacker language.

      for(unpack("C*",'GGGG?GGGG?O__\?WccW?{GCw?Wcc{?Wcc~?Wcc{?~cc' .'W?')){$j=$_-63;++$a;for$p(0..7){$h[$p][$a]=$j%2;$j/=2}}for$ p(0..7){for$a(1..45){$_=($h[$p-1][$a])?'#':' ';print}print$/}
Re: Perl and Unix versus PERL and UNIX
by Jenda (Abbot) on Mar 11, 2003 at 19:48 UTC

    If they ask for PERL programmers it's fine. But I saw an add that requested experience with Pearl and Jawa. (FYI It was on a Czech job board and Jawa is a name of a Czech motorcycle company.)


    P.S.: Sometimes it's not the company to blame. Some personnel agencies think they have to contribute and "fix typos".

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