Foo: A metasyntactic variable used in computer science as a placeholder term or to represent any abstract concept. By extension, a placeholder for any as-yet-unnamed product, company, or process: "We'll create the Foo umbrella brand, and then develop a family of brand extensions--Foo-X, Foo-Y, Foo-Z."
Foo Camp is an annual invitation-only "weekend geek campout" hosted by O'Reilly Media, where "people who're doing interesting works in fields such as web services, data visualization and search, open source programming, computer security, hardware hacking, GPS, alternative energy, and all manner of emerging technologies to share their works-in-progress, show off the latest tech toys and hardware hacks, and tackle challenging problems together." In this usage, "Foo" also stands for "Friends of O'Reilly."
At the 2007 Foo Camp, held in June at the O'Reilly campus in Sebastopol, California, lexicographer Erin McKean led participants in a word-making session she called--in deference to her techy audience--"hacking English." Among the coinages (more complete list here) were Googlegänger ("the other person who shows up in Google search results when people search for you"), malignation ("the state of being maligned"), and jot ("joyously hot").
For a comprehensive survey of foo etymology, history, and usage, see this 2001 paper from the Network Working Group.
There's also BarCamp (http://barcamp.org), which was formed in response to Foo Camp, and is named for the next variable after "foo" in the metasyntactic sequence. (foo, bar, baz, quux ...)
Posted by: Erin | July 09, 2007 at 10:39 AM
When the great break-through punk band Nirvana died along with its singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain, there was one positive side effect: drummer Dave Grohl stepped out from behind the drum kit to play guitar, sing, and lead one of the best bands of the past ten years (oops, 1st LP was in '95!): The Foo Fighters. Oh, wait, excuse me, like Rolling Stones and Eagles, I believe they have dropped the article: just Foo Fighters, thank you.
Foo Fighter was the name given to UFOs during WWII.
Do you suppose people looking for info on the Wii game controllor ever stumble across WWII articles?
See, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there's no The there:
Which reminds me, have you heard the radio ads for the Mastercard Card? Is there an echo in here here?
Posted by: Mark Gunnion | July 09, 2007 at 11:26 AM
To follow up on Erin's comment, "bar" follows "foo" in the sequence as an homage to "fubar," the WWII (not Wii!) acronym meaning "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition." (Intentional use of euphemism; I'm trying to maintain my G rating.)
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | July 09, 2007 at 11:30 AM
Foo is widely used in programming as a variable name, in exactly the sense you use it here - as a placeholder. Also, I've seen editors used TK in text as a placeholder. For example "The Porsche 911, capable of a top speed of TK mph, costs $TK." It's a good way to keep writing when you don't have the facts to hand and you don't want to stop and look them up.
Posted by: Matthew Stibbe (Bad Language) | July 30, 2007 at 03:56 AM
Matthew: Thanks for the comment! "TK" comes from journalism, where it's an abbreviation for "to come"--as in "headline to come." Why not "TC," you ask? Because in the pre-computer era, copy editors couldn't risk having their handwriting misinterpreted. A "K" is less likely to be ambiguous than a hastily scrawled "C."
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | July 30, 2007 at 07:49 AM