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Really should point at the New Hacker's Dictionary, if possible

I dithered over noun or pronoun, but a name that's used to stand for some unspecified entity sure sounds an awful lot like a pronoun. About the only difference is that one may introduce Foo et. al. specifically:

Suppose we have two structures, Foo and Bar. Foo points at Bar and Bar points at Foo.

but not

*Suppose we have two people, he and she . . .

Foo and Bar also do not inflect (Foo points at Bar as opposed to He points at her.). But new forms are invariably regular, and names in general do not inflect in English.

Arguments that Foo is not a noun:

It doesn't take an article

*The Foo points to the Bar.

It doesn't sit well with adjectives

?The big Foo points to the little Bar.

Both of these usages will work, however, if Foo is referring to a type or other class:

Function Frobozz takes two arguments of some type Foo. It sorts them by size, then it uses the big Foo as an key into a hash table to another Foo. The Foo that comes back is then . . .

So perhaps Foo can be used as a normal noun. But its principal usage is much more pronoun-like, as given above.

In short, Foo doesn't behave quite like a noun, or a proper name or a pronoun. The hacker's dictionary calls it a "Metasyntactic Variable," but it's not clear which part of speech that might correspond to.

Ah, the deep questions of life :) It can't be a normal noun because it can't be counted either as count (*a foo, *the foo) or mass (?some foo). As it does stand for a variable, it is particularly pronoun-like, but since it is the name of a variable, if pressed I would actually call it a proper noun (albeit an atypical one, as in ordinary variable nomenclature it is not capitalized). The parallel sentence to "Suppose we have two variables, foo and bar" is "Suppose we have two people, Alice and Beth". (For a better example; "Fido" is to dogs as "foo" is to variables: a standard name.) —Muke Tever 19:04, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I agree, to me it seems similar to using "John Doe" or "Fred Bloggs" to refer to a person whose real name is unknown. Ortonmc 19:08, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Again, when the referent is a type, class or other such, all the countable noun tests appear to work (Function frobozz takes a Foo and a Bar and returns a neutral representation of their common parts, where the capitilization is conventional in referring to Java classes -- Muke is quite right that they're normally or at least often uncapitalized). Even then, I'd tend to agree that "Proper Noun" is the right choice. One can also say "a John Doe," but for slightly different reasons. -dmh 19:21, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)


"in a Mr. T accent" - that's just wrong...

Seconded. "Foo'" crops up in a myriad other circumstances, not just during a Mr.T impersonation! —JakeybeanTALK 01:03, 3 January 2011 (UTC)


Shouldn't foo' redirect here?

Foo Fighter not derived?[edit]

Foo Fighter is listed as derived but its page says it's a corruption of a French word. That would make it a different sense or something, but not "derived".