Alien whitespace eating nanovirus strikes again!

Michael Vanier mvanier at
Thu Jun 3 02:42:40 CEST 1999

Paul Prescod <paul at> writes:

> Martijn Faassen wrote:
> > 
> > Hi there,
> > 
> > I don't intend to start a flamewar or anything, and I'm sure Larry Wall
> > is a nice guy, and Perl is nice and all, and the postmodern
> > rationalisation of the confusion that Perl is to me is *fun* (but does
> > not work for me), but Larry Wall seems to be infected by the whitespace
> > eating nanovirus meme. 
> The first time he mentioned this I thought he was joking. He attached a
> "Hi Guido!" to indicate that he was. Now it seems he is serious. He thinks
> that whitespace usage somehow goes to the heart of the way Python
> programmers think about their craft -- as if in Python, whitespace is as
> central as object orientation is in Java. A language designer should have
> a better feeling for what is essential about a language and what is
> trivial -- especially since he whines that people judge Perl too quickly
> based on its dollar signs. If we were as fair to Perl as he is to Python
> we would call it "Perl: the curly bracket and dollar sign language."

I couldn't agree with this more.  Larry is confusing syntax with semantics.
He also makes a big deal of the fact that perl was "designed to evolve" while
designating (among other languages) lisp as somehow B&D because it "drives
parentheses into the ground".  This is ridiculous.  Lisp was also "designed to
evolve" and (thanks to macros) can do so more than any other language, perl
included.  Interestingly, it's the simple parenthesized syntax that makes this
possible, or at least makes it much easier.  Lots of languages (lisp, perl,
python, C++ among others) are "multiparadigm", which I consider far more
significant than whitespace, parentheses, curly brackets or what not.

P.S.-I-may-like-lisp-but-I-still-use-python-90%-of-the-time-ly y'rs,


Mike Vanier	mvanier at
Department of Computation and Neural Systems, Caltech 216-76
Will optimize nonlinear functions with complex parameter spaces for food.

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