restriction on sum: intentional bug?

Stephen Hansen apt.shansen at
Fri Oct 16 18:00:29 CEST 2009

On Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 8:39 AM, Alan G Isaac <alan.isaac at> wrote:

> I expected this to be fixed in Python 3:
>  sum(['ab','cd'],'')
>>> Traceback (most recent call last):
>  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
> TypeError: sum() can't sum strings [use ''.join(seq) instead]
> Of course it is not a good way to join strings,
> but it should work, should it not?  Naturally,
>  '' + 'ab' + 'cd'
>>> 'abcd'
> Why doesn't duck typing apply to `sum`?
Because it would be so hideously slow and inefficient that it'd be way too
easy a way for people to program something they think should work fine but
really doesn't... alternatively, the function would have to do two
/completely/ different implementations based on what you're passing in, and
that violates duck typing too :)

Duck typing isn't an absolute. Sum's not broken... This is a "practicality
beats purity" thing; maybe sum should just add up everything passed to it
and as long as no errors happen, return the result. But in practice,  if
someone passes sequences of strings to it, it'd create/destroy so many
strings (which is way more expensive then just creating and destroying
successive integers), people would be making really bad code-decisions even
when it seems a perfectly valid thing to do.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Python-list mailing list