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I posted a question on another SE site that was quickly closed due to issues irrelevant to my current question. My question was about an "obscure" behavior of a programming language called Python.

One comment caught my eye: a highly-respected community member claimed that the behavior was "documented, therefore not obscure."

This started me wondering if his view is shared by the general English speaker. Is "obscure" equivalent to "undocumented"?

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3 Answers 3

No. Obscure here means "of little or no prominence, note, fame, or distinction".

Documented might only mean written down. It might be written in an obscure place.

However, the point made by your fellow community member still holds; he just didn't say everything he meant as well as he possibly could. He could have used a word like well-documented to press his point more convincingly. His main point was that the info you need is out there to be found.

To summarize: you can't hyper-analyze comments.

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@Fixee may have used obscure more in the sense of "difficult to understand", while the commenter may have meant either that or the "well-known" sense. While the terms are not totally synonymous, as you point out, something undocumented is logically also obscure, and something well-documented would not be obscure. (I agree with your interpretation that here, the point is that information is available; the feature was not totally obscure or no one would be aware of it or have understood it to write the documentation.) –  aedia λ Sep 27 '11 at 0:59
    
@drɱ: not trying to hyper-analyze, merely trying to understand. I suppose if respondent had said "well documented" I would have had no cause to wonder about this question, so your answer points out something valuable. –  Fixee Sep 27 '11 at 1:10
    
In technical circles, "documented" generally implies "well documented", because there is generally no reason to talk about documentation that nobody knows about. –  Karl Knechtel Sep 27 '11 at 8:54
    
@Fixee: I realize that; I just wanted to show why the comment's actual meaning wasn't what the it seemed at first to convey. I hope I've helped you to understand, though! –  Daniel Sep 28 '11 at 0:47
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@Karl: I believe people in technical circles do talk about documentation that nobody knows about: they call it "poorly documented". –  Fixee Sep 28 '11 at 1:11

Obscure is not the same as undocumented.

Here's an example, in a similar context as the question, though not specific to a programming language. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) memos are full of obscure information, e.g. this specification that defines the protocol referred to as HTTP. Much of that text could be considered obscure at this point in time. Yet it is one of the cornerstones of the internet. It is a very well-documented standard.

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Or if you want to keep it in the field of programming languages, there are quite a few items in the Java Language Specification which 99% of Java programmers don't know. –  Peter Taylor Sep 27 '11 at 9:03

The words mean different things.

However, the poster's argument is that a behaviour that is documented (strictly meaning, there exists something written down that describes it - but intended to mean that it's written down in an easily accessible place) cannot be obscure (meaning hidden or not well understood). In short: look it up yourself. Google awaits your query.

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