Scripting Language

On a mailing list I’m on, a few very smart, very experienced programmers were discussing the term “scripting language”. I had nothing of non-semantic value to add to the conversation, but I’ve heard this debate enough times that I figured I’d put my stock response here.

To the question “is X a scripting language?” the answer is “yes”. If the person is unhappy with this answer, the answer is “no”. At this point I ask “What will the correct answer to this question get you?”, and things unravel from there.

All rules someone can come up with to determine if something is a “scripting language” will be violated by at least one language they consider to be one. I assume there’s some fancy logician term for this, I’ll call it a paradoxical assignment until someone corrects me.

The term is vague, and the assignment of the term is typically in place of a more meaningful assessment such as “it’s not compiled”, or “it’s short”, so when someone asks this question, just dig a little deeper, and if someone says “just use a scripting language”, use Perl.

Glossary: Kilby Shortcut

Every group of friends develops a very localized parlance, usually drawn from movies they’ve all enjoyed or memorable events. My group of college friends was lucky enough to include someone who had inherited a dominant curator gene, Keith Tyler. This is well-evidenced by his contributions to Wikipedia, but also by his entering into the historical record a fairly exhaustive list of rubbonics, complete with phonetics, that would be useful in deciphering our conversations of the day.

This way's faster!Sometimes, a term or phrase has the potential to break out of the group and escape to the community and beyond, and I’m going to nominate one to do just that, or at least get it into Google. This term was apparently born after the rubbonics were codified, and I can’t remember the date, but I do remember the circumstances.

We went to the Cheri Theater (now the site of the Summer Shack and King’s bowling), one chilly Boston night. On the way back, Kilby proclaimed “this way’s faster” and promptly crossed the street. We declined to follow and proceed on our way as Kilby marched down the other side of the street. At the next intersection, he crossed back to our side of the street, but was there before us. “How?,” you ask. The answer is simple, he walked faster. This was not the first time he had performed such a feat, but it was then that the phrase “Kilby shortcut” was coined.

Kil·by short·cut

noun (kÄ­l’bÄ“ shôrt’kÅ­t’)

A path between two points which is longer than other obvious choices, but the extended length is mitigated by travelling faster.

An ironic footnote is that Kilby doesn’t drive, and never has, yet somehow is the best navigator I’ve seen when it comes to exploring cities or unfamiliary territory. Except, of course, when he says “this way’s faster”…