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15.5.18.5 Invalid Uses Of String Interpolation

Perl is capable of interpolating variables into strings. This offers some nice features in localized programs but can also lead to problems.

A common error is a construct like the following:

print gettext "This is the program $0!\n";

Perl will interpolate at runtime the value of the variable $0 into the argument of the gettext() function. Hence, this argument is not a string constant but a variable argument ($0 is a global variable that holds the name of the Perl script being executed). The interpolation is performed by Perl before the string argument is passed to gettext() and will therefore depend on the name of the script which can only be determined at runtime. Consequently, it is almost impossible that a translation can be looked up at runtime (except if, by accident, the interpolated string is found in the message catalog).

The xgettext program will therefore terminate parsing with a fatal error if it encounters a variable inside of an extracted string. In general, this will happen for all kinds of string interpolations that cannot be safely performed at compile time. If you absolutely know what you are doing, you can always circumvent this behavior:

my $know_what_i_am_doing = "This is program $0!\n";
print gettext $know_what_i_am_doing;

Since the parser only recognizes strings and quote-like expressions, but not variables or other terms, the above construct will be accepted. You will have to find another way, however, to let your original string make it into your message catalog.

If invoked with the option --extract-all, resp. -a, variable interpolation will be accepted. Rationale: You will generally use this option in order to prepare your sources for internationalization.

Please see the manual page ‘man perlop’ for details of strings and quote-like expressions that are subject to interpolation and those that are not. Safe interpolations (that will not lead to a fatal error) are:

The following escapes are considered partially safe:

These escapes are only considered safe if the string consists of ASCII characters only. Translation of characters outside the range defined by ASCII is locale-dependent and can actually only be performed at runtime; xgettext doesn’t do these locale-dependent translations at extraction time.

Except for the modifier \Q, these translations, albeit valid, are generally useless and only obfuscate your sources. If a translation can be safely performed at compile time you can just as well write what you mean.


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