Foo & Bar 的词源

RFC 3092, Etymology of “Foo”, APRIL 1 2001 研究了 ‘Foo’ 与 ‘Bar’ 的起源,觉得蛮好玩的,就转载部分正文过来。


Etymology of “Foo”

1. Introduction

Approximately 212 RFCs, or about 7% of RFCs issued so far, starting with RFC269, contain the terms ‘foo’, ‘bar’, or ‘foobar’ used as a metasyntactic variable without any proper explanation or definition. This may seem trivial, but a number of newcomers, especially if English is not their native language, have had problems in understanding the origin of those terms. This document rectifies that deficiency.

Section 2 below describes the definition and etymology of these words and Section 3 interprets them as acronyms.

As an Appendix, we include a table of RFC occurrences of these words as metasyntactic variables.

2. Definition and Etymology

bar /bar/ n.

  1. The second metasyntactic variable, after foo and before baz. “Suppose we have two functions: FOO and BAR. FOO calls BAR….”

  2. Often appended to foo to produce foobar.

foo /foo/

  1. interj. Term of disgust.

  2. 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, xyzzy, thud).

    When used in connection with ‘bar’ it is generally traced to the WW II era Army slang acronym FUBAR (‘Fucked Up Beyond All Repair’), later modified to foobar. Early versions of the Jargon File interpreted this change as a post-war bowdlerization, but it now seems more likely that FUBAR was itself a derivative of ‘foo’ perhaps influenced by German ‘furchtbar’ (terrible) - ‘foobar’ may actually have been the original form.

    For, it seems, the word ‘foo’ itself had an immediate prewar history in comic strips and cartoons. In the 1938 Warner Brothers cartoon directed by Robert Clampett, “The Daffy Doc”, a very early version of Daffy Duck holds up a sign saying “SILENCE IS FOO!” ‘FOO’ and ‘BAR’ also occurred in Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” strips. The earliest documented uses were in the surrealist “Smokey Stover” comic strip by Bill Holman about a fireman. This comic strip appeared in various American comics including “Everybody’s” between about 1930 and 1952. It frequently included the word “FOO” on license plates of cars, in nonsense sayings in the background of some frames such as “He who foos last foos best” or “Many smoke but foo men chew”, and had Smokey say “Where there’s foo, there’s fire”. Bill Holman, the author of the strip, filled it with odd jokes and personal contrivances, including other nonsense phrases such as “Notary Sojac” and “1506 nix nix”. According to the Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion Holman claimed to have found the word “foo” on the bottom of a Chinese figurine. This is plausible; Chinese statuettes often have apotropaic inscriptions, and this may have been 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”). English speakers’ reception of Holman’s ‘foo’ nonsense word was undoubtedly influenced by Yiddish ‘feh’ and English ‘fooey’ and ‘fool’.

    Holman’s strip featured a firetruck called the Foomobile that rode on two wheels. The comic strip was tremendously popular in the late 1930s, and legend has it that a manufacturer in Indiana even produced an operable version of Holman’s Foomobile. According to the Encyclopedia of American Comics, ‘Foo’ fever swept the U.S., finding its way into popular songs and generating over 500 ‘Foo Clubs.’ The fad left ‘foo’ references embedded in popular culture (including the couple of appearances in Warner Brothers cartoons of 1938-39) but with their origins rapidly forgotten.

    One place they are known to have remained live is in the U.S. military during the WWII years. In 1944-45, the term ‘foo fighters’ was in use by radar operators for the kind of mysterious or spurious trace that would later be called a UFO (the older term resurfaced in popular American usage in 1995 via the name of one of the better grunge-rock bands). Informants connected the term to the Smokey Stover strip.

    The U.S. and British militaries frequently swapped slang terms during the war. Period sources reported that ‘FOO’ became a semi-legendary subject of WWII British-army graffiti more or less equivalent to the American Kilroy. Where British troops went, the graffito “FOO was here” or something similar showed up. Several slang dictionaries aver that FOO probably came from Forward Observation Officer, but this (like the contemporaneous “FUBAR”) was probably a backronym. Forty years later, Paul Dickson’s excellent book “Words” traced “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 the Jargon File 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. The Crumbs may also have been influenced by a short-lived Canadian parody magazine named ‘Foo’ published in 1951-52.

    An old-time member reports that in the 1959 “Dictionary of the TMRC Language”, compiled at TMRC (the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT) there was an entry for Foo. The current on-line version, in which “Foo” is the only word coded to appear red, has the following:

    Foo: The sacred syllable (FOO MANI PADME HUM); to be spoken only when under obligation to commune with the Deity. Our first obligation is to keep the Foo Counters turning.

    This definition used Bill Holman’s nonsense word, then only two decades old and demonstrably still live in popular culture and slang, to make a “ha ha only serious” analogy with esoteric Tibetan Buddhism. Today’s hackers would find it difficult to resist elaborating a joke like that, and it is not likely 1959’s were any less susceptible.

  4. 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.

  5. A 13th-16th century usage for the devil or any other enemy. The earliest citation it gives is from the year 1366, Chaucer A B C (84): “Lat not our alder foo [devil] make his bobance [boast]”. Chaucer’s “Foo” is probably related to modern English “foe”.

  6. Rare species of dog.

    A spitz-type dog discovered to exist after having long been considered extinct, the Chinese Foo Dog, or Sacred Dog of Sinkiang, may have originated through a crossing of Northern European hunting dogs and the ancient Chow Chow from Mongolia or be the missing link between the Chinese Wolf and the Chow Chow. It probably derives its name from foochow, of the kind or style prevalent in Foochow, of or from the city of Foochow (now Minhow) in southeast China.

foobar n.

  • A widely used metasyntactic variable; see foo for etymology. Probably originally propagated through DECsystem manuals by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1960s and early 1970s; confirmed sightings there go back to 1972. Hackers do not generally use this to mean FUBAR in either the slang or jargon sense. It has been plausibly suggested that “foobar” spread among early computer engineers partly because of FUBAR and partly because “foo bar” parses in electronics techspeak as an inverted foo signal.

foo-fighter n.

  • World War II term for Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) noted by both German and British military.

3. Acronyms

The following information is derived primarily from the compilations at University Cork College and Acronym Finder generally filtered for computer usage.


  • Generic file extension which is not meant to imply anything about the file type.


  • Base Address Register

  • Buffer Address Register



  • FTP Operation Over Big Address Records. RFC1639. (Particularly appropriate given that the first RFC to use “foo”, RFC269, was also about file transfer.)


  • Failed UniBus Address Register - in a VAX, from Digital Equipment Corporation Engineering.

  • Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition/Repair - From US Military in World War II. Sometimes sanitized to “Fouled Up …”.


  • Past tense of FUBAR.


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