FAQ 4.68 Why does passing a subroutine an undefined element in a hash create it?


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4.68: Why does passing a subroutine an undefined element in a hash create it?

(contributed by brian d foy)

Are you using a really old version of Perl?

Normally, accessing a hash key's value for a nonexistent key will *not*
create the key.

my %hash = ();
my $value = $hash{ 'foo' };
print "This won't print\n" if exists $hash{ 'foo' };

Passing $hash{ 'foo' } to a subroutine used to be a special case,
though. Since you could assign directly to $_[0], Perl had to be ready
to make that assignment so it created the hash key ahead of time:

my_sub( $hash{ 'foo' } );
print "This will print before 5.004\n" if exists $hash{ 'foo' };

sub my_sub {
# $_[0] = 'bar'; # create hash key in case you do this

Since Perl 5.004, however, this situation is a special case and Perl
creates the hash key only when you make the assignment:

my_sub( $hash{ 'foo' } );
print "This will print, even after 5.004\n" if exists $hash{ 'foo' };

sub my_sub {
$_[0] = 'bar';

However, if you want the old behavior (and think carefully about that
because it's a weird side effect), you can pass a hash slice instead.
Perl 5.004 didn't make this a special case:

my_sub( @hash{ qw/foo/ } );


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