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st: RE: the meaning of 'foo'

From   "Scott Merryman" <>
To   <>
Subject   st: RE: the meaning of 'foo'
Date   Thu, 24 Aug 2006 11:52:37 -0500

Wikipedia defines it as the metasyntactic variable.

"A metasyntactic variable is either a placeholder name (a kind of alias
term, commonly used to denote the subject matter under discussion), or a
random member of a class of things under discussion. The term originates
from computer programming and other technical contexts, and is commonly used
in examples by hackers and programmers. The use of a metasyntactic variable
is helpful in freeing a programmer from creating a logically named variable,
although the invented term may also become sufficiently popular and enter
the language as a neologism. The word foo is the canonical example (it is
known as the canonical metasyntactical variable).

The phenomenon is similar to the use in algebra of x, y and z for unknown
variables, and a, b and c for unknown constants. "Widgets" are also used in
business to indicate an as-yet-unspecified product and are frequently sold
by the Acme company."


> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:owner-
>] On Behalf Of b. water
> Sent: Thursday, August 24, 2006 11:46 AM
> To:
> Subject: st: the meaning of 'foo'
> hi all,
> without wanting to sound irreverent, i wonder whether someone could tell
> me the meaning or full expression of the abbreviation 'foo' so often used
> to illustrate Stata advice/help. i have always wanted to know this but
> now, my curiosity got the better of me. i simply have to ask.
> apologies if it has nothing to do with either statistics or Stata.
> regards,
> bw

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