Feature #8772

Hash alias #| merge, and the case for Hash and Array polymorphism

Added by trans (Thomas Sawyer) almost 7 years ago. Updated over 2 years ago.

Target version:


Ideally Hash and Array would be completely polymorphic in every manner in which it is possible for them to be so. The reason for this is very simple. It makes a programmer's life easier. For example, in a recent program I was working on, I had a list of keyboard layouts.

layouts = [layout1, layout2, layout3]

Later I realized I wanted to identify them by a label not an index. So...

layouts = {:foo => layout1, :bar => layout2, :baz => layout3}

Unfortunately this broke my program in a number of places, and I had to go through every use of layouts to translate what was an Array call into a Hash call. If Array and and Hash were more polymorphic I would have only had to adjust the places were I wanted to take advantage of the Hash. Ideally almost nothing should have actually broken.

The achieve optimal polymorphism between Hash and Array is to treat a Hash's keys as indexes and its values as as the values of an array. e.g.

a = [:a,:b,:c]
h = {0=>:a,1=>:b,2=>:c}
a.to_a #=> [:a,:b,:c]
h.to_a #=> [:a,:b,:c]

Of course the ship has already sailed for some methods that are not polymorphic, in particular #each. Nonetheless it would still be wise to try to maximize the polymorphism going forward. (Perhaps even to be willing to take a bold leap in Ruby 3.0 to break some backward compatibility to improve upon this.)

In the mean time, let us consider what it might mean for Hash#+ as an alias for #merge, if the above were so:

([:a,:b] + [:c,:d]).to_a => [:a,:b,:c,:d]
({0=>:a,1=>:b} + {2=>:c,3=>:d}).to_a => [:a,:b,:c,:d]

([:a,:b] + [:a,:b]).to_a => [:a,:b,:a,:b]
({0=>:a,1=>:b} + {0=>:a,1=>:b}).to_a => [:a,:b]

Damn! So it appears that #+ isn't the right operator. Let's try #| instead.

([:a,:b] | [:c,:d]).to_a => [:a,:b,:c,:d]
({0=>:a,1=>:b} | {2=>:c,3=>:d}).to_a => [:a,:b,:c,:d]

([:a,:b] | [:a,:b]).to_a => [:a,:b]
({0=>:a,1=>:b} | {0=>:a,1=>:b}).to_a => [:a,:b]

Bingo. So I formally stand corrected. The best alias for merge is #| not #+.

Based on this line of reasoning I formally request the Hash#| be an alias of Hash#merge.

P.S. Albeit, given the current state of polymorphism between Ruby's Array and Hash, and the fact that it will probably never be improved upon, I doubt it really matters which operator is actually used.

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