Talk:Metasyntactic variable

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d'you know what? hate to argue with Terry, but it's technically a metathetic variable, from metathesis: one thing (e.g. a word) taking the place of another...--Knmatt 18:09, 27 May 2007 (CEST)

Yeah,well...I have a few quibbles, too, but he's the subject of this and a hundred other websites, and I'm not. Still, maybe we could have a nit-picking page - just to vent.--Old Dickens 22:20, 27 May 2007 (CEST)

Sorry Knmatt, but I think you're wrong. I just googled for metathetic, and got *six* hits, one of which is this page. It's a very rare word. And the meaning of metathesis is not quite as you describe it: it's not one thing taking the place of another, it is a *transposition* (a swap), where two things exchange. From Webster (1913 edition, so should be out of copyright, and if not, I claim Fair Use):
1. (Gram.) Transposition, as of the letters or syllables of a word; as, pistris for pristis; meagre for meager.
2. (Med.) A mere change in place of a morbid substance, without removal from the body.
3. (Chem.) The act, process, or result of exchange, substitution, or replacement of atoms and radicals; thus, by metathesis an acid gives up all or part of its hydrogen, takes on an equivalent amount of a metal or base, and forms a salt.
Metasyntactic is a neologism, so it's not found in any out-of-copyright dictionaries, but you can find it in Wiktionary. -- (I look up rare and obscure words so that you don't have to.) Steven 08:01, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

You can find it in Wikipedia, too. It's usually a computer programming term for the same idea, only in computer language rather than English. It's been much discussed in a.f.p., some saying it's also a legitimate linguistic term as well without offering much evidence. Wikipedia calls the linguistic version a "placeholder name". I can't find a single word for them, which seems odd: there aren't many things without names. We might as well adopt metasyntactic variable (although I'd prefer a single word.) --Old Dickens 01:57, 10 February 2009 (UTC)