/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
s used in syntax examples. See also
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 Recognition'), later
bowdlerized to foobar
. (See also FUBAR
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 "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").
It is even possible that hacker usage actually springs from
`FOO, Lampoons and Parody', the title of a comic book first
issued in September 1958; the byline read `C. Crumb' but the style
of the art suggests this may well have been a sort-of pseudonym for
noted weird-comix artist Robert Crumb. The title FOO was featured
in large letters on the front cover. What the word meant to Mr.
Crumb is anybody's guess.
An old-time member reports that in the 1959 `Dictionary of the
TMRC Language', compiled at TMRC
there was an entry that went
something like this
FOO The first syllable of the sacred chant phrase "FOO MANE PADME
HUM." Our first obligation is to keep the foo counters turning.
For more about the legendary foo counters, see TMRC
the entire staff of what became the MIT AI LAB was involved with
TMRC, and probably picked the word up there.
Very probably, hackish `foo' had no single origin and derives
through all these channels from Yiddish `feh' and/or English