Securing a future for anonymous functions in Python

Bengt Richter bokr at
Fri Jan 7 18:34:16 EST 2005

On 07 Jan 2005 13:24:39 -0800, Paul Rubin <> wrote:

>Nick Coghlan <ncoghlan at> writes:
>> Add in the fact that there are many, many Python programmers with
>> non-CS backgrounds, and the term 'lambda' sticks out like a sore thumb
>> from amongst Python's other English-based keywords. 'def' is probably
>> the second-most cryptic when you first encounter it, but it is a good
>> mnemonic for "define a function", so it's still easy to parse. "Lambda
>> is the term mathematicians use to refer to an anonymous function" is
>> nowhere near as grokkable ;)
>Richard Feynman told a story about being on a review committee for
>some grade-school science textbooks.  One of these book said something
>about "counting numbers" and it took him a while to figure out that
>this was a new term for what he'd been used to calling "integers".
>"Integer" is a math term but I think that if we need to use the
>concept of integers with someone unfamiliar with the term, it's best
>to just introduce the term and then use it, rather than make up new
>terminology like "counting numbers" even if those words sound more
>like conversational English.
It's an example of the educational establishment's conspiracy to keep
children from too quickly outshining teachers who feel threatened by raw
intelligence rather than elated at the opportunity to help it form.
Forcing kids to learn a throwaway baby-goo language before they
get the real thing is a kind of abuse IMO.

>For the same reason I don't have any problem with "lambda", though
>it's not that big a deal.
>I also just can't believe that Pythonistas keep getting into these
>arguments over whether lambda is too confusing, while at the same time
>there's no such discussion over far more abstruse Python features like
Some things are considered to be behind the pythonostasis and only for the priests? ;-)

Bengt Richter

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