I work with open source software a lot and keep coming across weird and funny names for executables, variables, constants and etc. Currently I am wondering why CATALINA_HOME environment variable was named that way? I did a quick search on google with but nothing relative came up. My only guess is that it is named after the island of the shore of south California.

On the related note, very often I find amusing and clever names used in open source programs. One of my favorites are slapd and slurpd executables of OpenLDAP suite. What are your favorite/noteworthy variable/executable names that you have seen in your programming career? Do you think it is OK to name your variables/executables this way, or would you rather see boring but clear names?

PS. This is not really a programming question but I think it somewhat fits in here, according to faq.

  • I heard they just really liked the dressing.
    – Josh K
    Nov 11, 2010 at 17:44
  • 2
    I'm undecided on whether this is useful - seems to almost be mindless social fun, (which is better suited for a discussion forum or chat room than a Q&A site). At the same time, it might be interesting, if the answers are kept educational... Nov 11, 2010 at 18:19
  • I think it's because they were at a Catalina Wine Mixer. Nov 11, 2010 at 22:40

2 Answers 2


I believe it comes as a result of thinking about your applications home directory, which may in turn have been influenced by Unix home directories before that. Typical examples are

As a general convention for naming environment variables, the _HOME suffix has stood the test of time and so has become generally adopted for new projects that require them.

In terms of my personal favourite names, here's a short list

  • grep (global regular expression print) is synonymous with search among *nixers
  • awk (named after the programmers) is great for awkward text manipulation

For more Unix weirdness have a look at this article.


Catalina is the code name for the Tomcat servlet implementation. Home customarily refers to the root directory of a distribution.

Hence CATALINA_HOME refers to the Tomcat root.

  • Thorbjørn - I've added the link to Tomcat, since I guess not everyone knows what it is, and this saves them the effort of searching. :) Might also be worth discussing JAVA_HOME and other similar _HOME variables in the answer, but I wasn't quite sure about that so haven't added anything regarding that. Nov 11, 2010 at 18:26
  • @Peter, thanks, appreciate your effort. The appropriate spot to put the "I edited this post"-comment, is in the text box presented when you edit.
    – user1249
    Nov 11, 2010 at 20:21

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