Cancelmoose[tm] = C = canonical

candygrammar n.

A programming-language grammar that is mostly syntactic sugar; the term is also a play on "candygram". COBOL, Apple's Hypertalk language, and a lot of the so-called "4GL" database languages share this property. The usual intent of such designs is that they be as English-like as possible, on the theory that they will then be easier for unskilled people to program. This intention comes to grief on the reality that syntax isn't what makes programming hard; it's the mental effort and organization required to specify an algorithm precisely that costs. Thus the invariable result is that "candygrammar languages" are just as difficult to program in as terser ones, and far more painful for the experienced hacker.

[The overtones from the old Chevy Chase skit on Saturday Night Live should not be overlooked. This was a Jaws parody. Someone lurking outside an apartment door tries all kinds of bogus ways to get the occupant to open up, while ominous music plays in the background. The last attempt is a half-hearted "Candygram!" When the door is opened, a shark bursts in and chomps the poor occupant. [There is a similar gag in Blazing Saddles --ESR] There is a moral here for those attracted to candygrammars. Note that, in many circles, pretty much the same ones who remember Monty Python sketches, all it takes is the word "Candygram!", suitably timed, to get people rolling on the floor. -- GLS]

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

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