Dear RFC Editors,
29 current RFCs (starting with RFC 733 and RFC 822) contain the terms
foo, bar, or foo.bar without any proper explanation or definition. This
may seem trivial, but a number of newcomers, especially from abroad,
have had problems to understand the origin of those terms, including
Being of a curious nature, I spent some time looking round the web for
the origin of the terms and eventually found the following text, which
I found rather good.
FROM: Zork and Other Infocom Lingo at:
1. [NHD] interj. Term of disgust.
2. [NHD] Used very generally as a sample name for absolutely anything,
esp. programs and files (esp. scratch files).
3. First on the standard list of metasyntactic variables used in syntax
examples (bar, baz, qux, quux, corge, grault, garply, waldo, fred, plugh,
The etymology of hackish `foo' is obscure. When used in connection with
`bar' it is generally traced to the WWII-era Army slang acronym FUBAR
(`Fucked Up Beyond All Repair'), later bowdlerized to foobar.
However, the use of the word `foo' itself has more complicated
antecedents, including a long history in comic strips and cartoons. The
old "Smokey Stover" comic strips by Bill Holman often included the word
`FOO', in particular on license plates of cars; allegedly, `FOO' and `BAR'
also occurred in Walt Kelly's "Pogo" strips. In the 1938 cartoon "The
Daffy Doc", a very early version of Daffy Duck holds up a sign saying
"SILENCE IS FOO!"; oddly, this seems to refer to some approving or positive
affirmative use of foo.
It has been suggested that this might be related to the Chinese word `fu'
(sometimes transliterated `foo'), which can mean "happiness" when spoken
with the proper tone (the lion-dog guardians flanking the steps of many
Chinese restaurants are properly called "fu dogs").
Paul Dickson's excellent book "Words" (Dell, 1982, ISBN 0-440-52260-7)
traces "Foo" to an unspecified British naval magazine in 1946, quoting as
follows: "Mr. Foo is a mysterious Second World War product, gifted with
bitter omniscience and sarcasm."
Earlier versions of this entry suggested the possibility that hacker usage
actually sprang from "FOO, Lampoons and Parody", the title of a comic book
first issued in September 1958, a joint project of Charles and Robert Crumb.
Though Robert Crumb (then in his mid-teens) later became one of the most
important and influential artists in underground comics, this venture was
hardly a success; indeed, the brothers later burned most of the existing
copies in disgust. The title FOO was featured in large letters on the front
cover. However, very few copies of this comic actually circulated, and
students of Crumb's `oeuvre' have established that this title was a
reference to the earlier Smokey Stover comics.
Very probably, hackish `foo' had no single origin and derives through all
these channels from Yiddish `feh' and/or English `fooey'.
[NHD] n. Another common metasyntactic variable (foo, bar, baz, qux, quux,
quuux ...). A long form of foo
4. [EF] Prince Foo was the last ruler of Pheebor and owner of the Phee
Helm, about 400 years before the reign of Entharion. When Foo was beheaded
by someone he called an "eastern fop" from Borphee, the glorious age of
Pheebor ended, and Borphee rose to the prominence it now enjoys.
This is not a joke, I seriously think that you should include maybe a subset
of the above text in one of the informational documents for IETF newcomers.
IETF IPP WG Chair