Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Asterisk (cormullion.github.io)
120 points by asg 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

This is about the glyph, not the telephony software. Though it does go into some of the modern technology involved.

I always thought Obelix was named after obelisks because of the menhir connection (e.g. both are upright stone monuments of a sort).

The connection with asterisk/Asterix makes it so much better.

FWIW, I only realized last year, ~30 years after I read the books, that Idefix was named thus because of "idée fixe"[0].

Ah, the unexpected depth of a children comic book!

[0] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/id%C3%A9e_fixe

I'm not sure if you're a native French speaker, but most of the names in Asterix & Obelix are puns and worth exploring!

- Panoramix (panorama) - Abraracourcix (a bras racourcis) - Bonnemine, Assurancetourix, Agecanonix, etc.

I'm italian, so some of the things made sense from the start (Panoramix, Asterix and many of the one-off characters which I can't recall) but some have always been obscure :)

They translate most of those names differently in other languages, in German, they use German puns, etc. (strangely enough, Idefix wasn't translated).

I always kinda enjoyed the english translation of the tribe chief being Vitalstatistix.

A pun that actually works better in the English translation as Dogmatix.

Coming from Russian books I was extremely confused by the varied asterisks used for footnotes in English/American literature. Why would you go to all the trouble with 15 different types of asterisks when you can just use numbers?

Number and symbols serve a slightly different use. The general rule in English is that footnotes (ie they reference something at the foot of the same page) use symbols and that you only have to use different symbols for different footnotes if you have multiple footnotes on the same page. Numbers are used for references found at the end of the book/chapter/article and have to be unique for the whole book/chapter/articel.

Realistically I've never seen most of those symbols in any book I've ever read. If you're regularly using more than 2 footnotes a page, you're probably better of numbering them and moving the references to the end of the chapter or book.

In German academic texts, numbered footnotes are very common. I think it's similar in other continental European traditions. In English texts, I've usually seen more chapter end notes than footnotes.

Also, some citation styles make heavy use of footnotes.

The three things I thought worth noting from this:

(1) The paragraph marker ¶ is called a pilcrow or alinea.

(2) The names sin and cos were invented by William Oughtred, whose 1631 book Clavis Mathematicae, The Key to Mathematics was the first use in print of the saltire (, a rotated +) for multiplication.

(3) Traditionally serif faces included a six-pointed asterisk, while sans serif asterisks had five, but in practice this is no longer an observed convention.

This is one of those posts I save to read later but never actually read. It's interesting but not essential.

"Perhaps this is where the use of * as the wild-card character comes from."

"." is the wildcard character. "*" is a quantifier meaning 0 or more of the previous.

in regex this is correct, but in many other contexts * is used as wildcard.

ie.: in most OSes you can use * as wildcard for filename.


will refer to all files named "file" with any extension


will refer to all files with any name as long as they have the zip extension

is a wildcard in most contexts while "." is wildcard only in regex that i know.

True. But in the article, the full paragraph reads like this:

Perhaps this is where the use of * as the wild-card character comes from. I find regular expressions can induce swearing, occasionally.

* is the wildcard in some forms of regular expressions, such as file name globs.

I know that * is the wildcard in many expressions, such as some query languages and (as you say) file name globs. However, I don't actually think a wildcard glob is a regular expression. Wikipedia, always a risky source :-), makes that point, with a reference to further reading.

The article is about the asterisk character, and the connection to the wild-card seems legit. But the sentence "I find regular expressions can induce swearing, occasionally" (which I agree fully with!) hints towards the idea that the * is used as a wildcard in regular expressions, which I think isn't quite true.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glob_(programming)#Compared_to...

A glob isn't a regular expression, and indeed one of the reasons it isn't is that it lacks the Kleene star - which is the thing an asterisk does in the typical regular expression syntax.

I don't think you need the Kleene star to be regular.

Star-free languages are regular languages without the Kleene star.


But I'm not an expert in formal languages and maybe you are.

I think you're slightly at cross-purposes: GP is saying that since globs lack the Kleene star, they cannot be used to define all regular languages.

Star-free languages are a strict subset of the set of regular languages, so there exist regular languages that require the Kleene star to be represented as a regular expression; indeed the Wikipedia article you linked gives an example.

It's perhaps worth noting that neither regular expressions nor globs are themselves regular languages: they are just used to define regular languages. Consider that regular expressions usually require some form of parenthetical notation, and that languages with matched parentheses cannot be regular as a trivial consequence of the pumping lemma.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact