The Name

The most important thing in the programming language is the name. A language will not succeed without a good name. I have recently invented a very good name and now I am looking for a suitable language. - Donald Knuth

I had started work on my graphical programming language, and was planning to use it mainly for AI, so the first name I thought of was Grail: Graphical AI Language. It was an acronym, and it had connotations of "the holy grail" of programming languages. Then I learned about GRAIL, short for Graphical Input Language, a flowchart-based visual programming language developed at the RAND corporation, and decided it was too close for comfort. So Grail it couldn't be, and I had to think of another name.

Then I thought of how lisping was a gay affectation, and my language was, so I thought, Lispier than Lisp itself. So how does one sound gayer than speaking with a lisp? Well, by speaking Polari. So that was its next name. But then I worried that it, or I, might become a gay icon, and that this might limit its appeal, so I dropped that name too. (But perhaps too soon: it is, after all, homoiconic. I should add here that I'm not the slightest bit prejudiced: were I to learn that someone I know is gay, I wouldn't hold it against them.)

Around this time, I had just bought a copy of The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks, which has a chapter called No Silver Bullets. Fred Brooks is, it has to be said, somewhat scathing of attempts to improve programmer productivity through the use of graphical languages, but at the time he wrote it, existing graphical languages weren't particularly impressive. So, I thought: it might not be a silver bullet, but at least it's one with a full metal jacket! And so the name was born. It also facilitates some dreadful puns. As it's designed as a language for smart people, it's not for dum-dums. And, whereas other languages could reasonably be described as square, Full Metal Jacket is round.

I'm still not completely sold on it.


© Copyright Donald Fisk 2015