Case sensitivity

Alex Martelli aleax at
Tue Feb 25 17:38:52 CET 2003

Terry Reedy wrote:
> I think there is a deeper wart in the name area: the exclusion of '-',
> the standard character in English for compound-word formation, as a
> legal name character.  Its replacement in CS by '_' (shift-'-', ugh)
> or by mid-word capitalization (another shift, ugh) has always struck
> me as a priestly affectation.  I consider this to be a subtle but real
> barrier to Computer Programming for Everybody.

<shrug> so use Cobol -- who's stopping you?

> Is it still possible to add '-' as a name (and re-word) character?  Or
> does the implementation in C somehow prohibit this by requiring
> conformance to C's name rule?

Today, a-b does a subtraction between the value named by a and the
value named by b.  If you want to turn that into a 3-character
identifier, and force subtraction to be spelled as "SUBTRACT b
FROM a", I _do_ suspect you'll be better off with Cobol, really.

Cobol DOES have some good points, but I don't think that such
verbosity in expressions is one (I know algebraic form is today
also generally permitted, but it was not allowed when I did a
little Cobol production coding years ago -- I don't recall if it
was the compiler, or a local coding standard, forbidding it).

If what you want is mandatory space between tokens, so a-b is a
name but a - b is a subtraction -- hmmm, Dylan has that, and it
kept tripping me up.  I think it's a trap, an accident waiting to
happen, and overall a language defect, but I'll gladly listen to
Dylan fans explaining to me why that's not so.


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