Ternary operator

Paul Moore pf_moore at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Sep 8 18:16:37 CEST 2003

Bob Gailer <bgailer at alum.rpi.edu> writes:

>>It seems to me that the majority did want some kind of ternary operator, but
>>the large number of options prevented any one from being the clear winner. I
>>would wager that if the BDFL had picked his favorite from any of the most
>>popular options and said, "Now vote yes or no on *this* syntax", he would
>>have seen that clear majority he was looking for.

Actually, that's what Guido did do at first (IIRC). He proposed the
"expr1 if cond else expr2" form. The *community* argued against this
specific syntax, rather than concentrating on the semantics, and it
was only then that the discussion fragmented into endless discussions
over what syntax to choose.

>>I suppose this is all water under the bridge now, since the PEP stated that
>>this was the community's one and only chance. I just can't help but think
>>that the voting system guaranteed the outcome--but it's Guido's language and
>>it was certainly his call to make.

The voting system was designed by the community and so we can't blame
anyone but ourselves for "rigging" the outcome...

> THANK YOU. Your analysis of the process brings me a sense of relief. I
> was also confused and frustrated by its failure to deliver what
> (obviously) many of us wanted.

My feeling is that there is a majority who want a ternary operation
(not including me, but what the heck) but that there is violent
disagreement on the syntax.

> I was dismayed by the process being defined as "the community's one
> and only chance" and then set up to fail.

Well, I see it as Guido not really wanting to spend the time
implementing a ternary operator. He offered to, in any case, if the
community was in favour (and the PEP originally stated precisely what
he was offering). But with the proviso "if you don't like this, I'm
not going to offer again". I doubt he was surprised that the result
was a lot of discussion over syntax, rather than an acceptance of the

The general history of this issue is one of endless discussion with no
agreement. Maybe the majority would like the feature, but that same
majority can't agree on syntax. The PEP just forced one more iteration
of that process, and documented the result (lots of heated discussion,
but no solid conclusion).

Maybe it's a shame that Guido's original PEP wasn't preserved
unaltered. What's there now doesn't capture the flavour of the

Of course, all of this is only my recollection, and just as prone to
being wrong as anyone else's...

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