A Paradox of Braces

A great deal of thought goes into language design. Eric Lippert’s posts is a living testament, at least for C#. Syntax and idioms are also part of the language design. When designing a language, the designers have to also consider its future. For instance, when designing C#, Anders and others should have thought of and planned for what’s coming in then upcoming version(s) of C#. Such level of forethought might be seem daunting for an outsider. But the language designers are good at what they do, and most importantly, they know what they are doing. Well, in most cases!

In most cases? There are times when they either do not anticipate the introduction of a feature or its introduction interferes with what’s already existing. I am not talking about C#. I am talking about JavaScript.

A few years back, nobody would have thought that the language is going to get a pair of new shoes. Back then you would have been outlawed for uttering the word classees. Nobody anticipated lambdas because you know JavaScript was already a functional programming language; or so they say. Everything could be solved with functions. You implement classes with functions while the reverse, although it makes sense (think function objects), was considered not thinking in JavaScript. Anyways, here comes the funny story.

Here is a simple one line ES6 lambda:

x => x + 1  

Here is a multiline lambda:

(item, index) => {  
  console.log(`Processing item #${index} …`);

  // Imagine a few more lines of code to play with item.

  return {  
    userId: item.account.tokenData.userId,  
    fullName: item.account.firstName + " " + item.account.lastName,  
    location: item.address.city || item.address.province  
    // Want more such ceremony?? 😝  
  };
}

In the second snippet, the return value is an object (literal). You don’t need the block { .. } with a return if you can express the return value as an expression (as in the one line lambda earlier). Ignoring the few more lines of code and the ceremony 😝, you could have this:

(item, index) => {  
  userId: item.account.tokenData.userId,  
  fullName: item.account.firstName + " " + item.account.lastName,  
  location: item.address.city || item.address.province  
}

Like the one line lambda returning an integer, the above, technically, is one line lambda. Its’ returning an object (literal). I have just wrapped/formatted the object literal (the way I usually do).

Except the above code won’t work. Duh!

Uncaught SyntaxError: Unexpected token :

The JavaScript parser is tricked into seeing the { as the beginning of a multiline lambda block and not as an object literal. Well, you can’t blame it. JavaScript did not see it coming; the language upgrade. Time and again, we put it off saying functions is just enough.

I suppose we cannot do anything much here.

(item, index) => {  
  return {  
    userId: item.account.tokenData.userId,  
    fullName: item.account.firstName + " " + item.account.lastName,  
    location: item.address.city || item.address.province  
  };  
}

Or by declaring another function that returns the object and call the function in the lambda:

function mapIt(item) {  
  return {  
    userId: item.account.tokenData.userId,  
    fullName: item.account.firstName + " " + item.account.lastName,  
    location: item.address.city || item.address.province  
  };  
}

let users = items.map(item, item => mapIt(item));  

I prefer the above rather than nesting { for the sake of satisfying the parser and having a dummy return.

Also, JavaScript’s closest kin, Typescript, wouldn’t be able to help us here. Because Typescript augments JavaScript, and doesn’t invalidate any existing JavaScript constructs.

I am sure I am not the first to discover this. But I couldn’t stop laughing to myself when I encountered this.

UPDATE

Instead of the above workarounds, I came across a cleaner way:

(item, index) => ({  
  userId: item.account.tokenData.userId,  
  fullName: item.account.firstName + " " + item.account.lastName,  
  location: item.address.city || item.address.province  
});

Still squinting your eyes? Notice the object literal shoved inside ().

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