Q about assignment and references

jdbosmaus jayjoeryu at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 7 04:51:07 CEST 2010

Pretty new to Python, but I thought I understood what is meant by "an
assignment is a reference."

Until I tried to understand this.

Here is a (fragment of an) event handler for a group of three wxPython
toggle buttons. The idea is to change the appearance of the label of
the button that was pressed, and reset the appearance of the other
two. Because all three buttons send messages to this handler, it uses
the event argument to figure out which button was activated. (In the
original there is additonal code that enforces some button-state
logic, but that's not relevant to this question so it has been

def ScanModeHdlr(self, event):
        esource = event.GetEventObject() #return button that was

        fontUn = esource.Font
        fontSel = esource.Font
        fontUn.Style = wx.NORMAL
        fontSel.Style = wx.ITALIC
        fontUn.PointSize = 9
        fontSel.PointSize = 12

        btnlist = (self.TBN_NewScan, self.TBN_CheckScan,

        for x in btnlist:
            if x is esource:
                x.Font = fontSel
                x.Font = fontUn

Now, what bothers me is that in the 3rd and 4th lines, the RHS
"esource.Font" returns a wx.Font object that is a *copy* of the font
object of the button. The next four lines set the size and slant of
these objects - using semantics that ought to, in the ordinary Python
way, be changing "esource.Font". They don't, proving that fontUn and
fontSel are copies, not references. OK, esource.Font is a class
property, not a list, so maybe that's fair, though confusing. Then in
the for-loop we assign the font object to a LHS object that ...
semantically, looks exactly like the thing that returned a *copy* up
above. Not only that, but the for-loop variable "x" is assigned
sequentially to the button objects, yet the "is" comparison (which
does work as desired) proves that one value of x is the same *object*
as esource, not a copy - and look at line 2 where esource was

I could understand if the setting-semantics in the for-loop needed to
be something like "x.SetFont(fontUn)", or even "x.SetFont = fontUn".
(for "could understand" read "would be much happier.")

I could also understand if the 3rd and 4th lines needed to look like
"fontUn = copy(esource.Font)". (which doesn't work; "copy" doesn't
know what to do.)

What I can't understand is how the semantics that actually works makes
sense in terms of Python's assignment conventions.

Can anybody square this circle for me? Thx...

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