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Wadler’s Law (extended to Clojure)

Jul 12, 2010

Philip Wadler is a PLT thinker of the highest order. In addition to the mind-boggling insights into the art of programming, his cutting wit1 is second to none. In late 1996 he unveiled “Wadler’s law”, described2 as:

In any language design, the total time spent discussing a feature in this list is proportional to two raised to the power of its position.

Every language is affected3 by Wadler’s Law and Clojure is no different. Therefore, I humbly present4 the following:

0. Clojure semantics
1. Prefix notation
2. The positioning of parenthesis
3. The elimination of parenthesis

this post inspired by a tweet from James Iry


  1. Very often I’ve found that Haskellers have the most acute sense of humor. I wonder if it’s Haskell that attracts this type or if it creates them. 

  2. Revised from an earlier version proposed in 1992. More information can be found at 

  3. Although most follow the original four points. 

  4. This list could probably apply to most Lisp-derived languages. 

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