Syntactic Corn Syrup June 16th, 2015
Patrick Stein

I’ve been bouncing around between Java and C++ and C and loads of JNI cruft in between. At some point today, I accidentally used a semicolon to separate parameters in my C function declaration:

void JNI_myJNIMethod( int paramA; int paramB; int paramC )
{
  ...
}

It looked wrong to me. But, I had one of those brain-lock moments where I couldn’t tell if it was wrong. I was pretty sure that it was wrong by the time my brain locked on pre-ANSI K&R:

void
JNI_myJNIMethod(paramA, paramB, paramC)
  int paramA;
  int paramB;
  int paramC;
{
  ...
}

Regardless, it got me thinking about the programming maxims: Deleted code has no bugs and Deleted code is debugged code.

I never have this kind of brain-lock in Lisp. Some of that is because my Emacs configuration has been molded to my Lisp habits better than to my C/C++/Java habits. Most of it, though, is that Lisp understands the difference between syntactic sugar and syntactic cruft.

Lisp decided long ago that writing code should be easy even if it makes writing the compiler tougher. C and C++ and Java all decided that LALR(1) was more important than me. As if that weren’t bad enough, C++ and Java have thrown the lexers and parsers under the bus now, too. No one gets a free ride.

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