List comprehensions are a nice feature in Python. They are, however, just syntactic sugar for for loops. E.g. the following list comprehension:
def f(l): return [i ** 2 for i in l if i % 3 == 0]
is sugar for the following for loop:
def f(l): result =  for i in l: if i % 3 == 0: result.append(i ** 2) return result
The interesting bit about this is that list comprehensions are actually implemented in almost exactly this way. If one disassembles the two functions above one gets sort of similar bytecode for both (apart from some details, like the fact that the append in the list comprehension is done with a special LIST_APPEND bytecode).
Now, when doing this sort of expansion there are some classical problems: what name should the intermediate list get that is being built? (I said classical because this is indeed one of the problems of many macro systems). What CPython does is give the list the name _ (and _... with nested list comprehensions). You can observe this behaviour with the following code:
$ python Python 2.5.2 (r252:60911, Apr 21 2008, 11:12:42) [GCC 4.2.3 (Ubuntu 4.2.3-2ubuntu7)] on linux2 Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information. >>> [dir() for i in ] ['_', '__builtins__', '__doc__', '__name__', 'i'] >>> [[dir() for i in ] for j in ] ['_', '_', '__builtins__', '__doc__', '__name__', 'i', 'j']
That is a sort of nice decision, since you can not reach that name by any "normal" means. Of course you can confuse yourself in funny ways if you want:
>>> [locals()['_'].extend([i, i + 1]) for i in range(10)] [0, 1, None, 1, 2, None, 2, 3, None, 3, 4, None, 4, 5, None, 5, 6, None, 6, 7, None, 7, 8, None, 8, 9, None, 9, 10, None]
Now to the real reason why I am writing this blog post. PyPy's Python interpreter implements list comprehensions in more or less exactly the same way, with on tiny difference: the name of the variable:
$ pypy-c-53594-generation-allworking Python 2.4.1 (pypy 1.0.0 build 53594) on linux2 Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information. ``the globe is our pony, the cosmos our real horse'' >>>> [dir() for i in ] ['$list0', '__builtins__', '__doc__', '__name__', 'i']
Now, that shouldn't really matter for anybody, should it? Turns out it does. The following way too clever code is apparently used a lot:
__all__ = [__name for __name in locals().keys() if not __name.startswith('_') ' or __name == '_']
In PyPy this will give you a "$list0" in __all__, which will prevent the import of that module :-(. I guess I need to change the name to match CPython's.
Lesson learned: no detail is obscure enough to not have some code depending on it. Mostly problems on this level of obscurity are the things we are fixing in PyPy at the moment.