The Hideous Name

By Rob Pike and P.J. Weinberger (AT&T Bell Laboratories Murray Hill, New Jersey 07974)


The principles of good naming in computing have been known for decades. The invention of new facilities in computing systems can be guided by these principles. For example, the introduction of networking need not require any change to the majority of system utilities, because objects such as files on remote machines can be given syntacti- cally familiar names within the local machine’s name space. Indeed, the implementers of networks often do well by these standards by striving to make remote files essentially indistinguishable from local ones. Unfortunately, the situation with internetwork mail addresses is not as satisfactory. The practitioners of internetworking would profit by understanding the benefits of simple, uniform syntax.

    - Carnegie-Mellon University mailer

I cannot tell what the dickens his name is.
    - Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, II. ii. 20.