2011-05-18

English Idiom in Unix: Directory Recursively

http://groups.google.com/group/comp.lang.python/browse_frm/thread/3702cd4e7d2c54c5/

Xah wrote:
〈English Idiom in Unix: Directory Recursively〉
http://xahlee.org/comp/idiom_directory_recursively.html

Mike Barnes wrote:
> Xah Lee :
>
> >For example, when you want to delete the whole dir in emacs, it
> >prompts this message: “Recursive delete of xx? (y or n) ”.
>
> AFAICS what emacs calls "recursive delete" is what the ordinary person
> would simply call "delete". Presumably the non-recursive delete is
> called simply "delete" but is actually something more complicated than
> delete, and you're supposed to know what that is.
>
> Also (I'm speculating) a recursive delete means carrying out the
> (ordinary, non-recursive) delete process on sub-directories,
> recursively. The result of which is, put simply, to delete the
> directory.
>
> I find all this somewhat arcane. Questioning the precise suitability of
> the word "recursive" seems like a quibble.

that's good point. I think what happens is that the “recursive” has become a idiom associated with directory to such a degree that the unix people don't know what the fuck they are talking about. They just simply use the word to go with directory whever they mean the whole directory.

In the emacs case: “Recursive delete of xx? (y or n) ”, what could it possibly mean by the word “recursive” there? Like, it might delete the directory but not delete all files in it?

also, in the rsync case: “This would recursively transfer all files from the directory … ”, what does the word “recursively” mean there?

Xah

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