I faced this phrase when the author of the blog post titled The Future Of Lisp wanted to show that nothing is clear: "What, when, why and where did my chicken go?"

What does this phrase mean? Is it an idiom or not?

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    I've never heard that one. Could you provide more information on the original context? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Aug 17 '11 at 15:48
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    Hmm. OP has now provided a contextual example, but I have to say that was already one of the very few I'd already found via Google. The expression has no currency to speak of. – FumbleFingers Aug 17 '11 at 16:42
  • Is the chicken truly subjective? I immediately thought the phrase was a prepositional exercise. – Mike Christian Aug 17 '11 at 18:06

I think in the context it is being used, "Where did my chicken go?" indicates general confusion - the speaker of this phrase had a chicken and can't find it now. I have never seen this expression before and am basing my interpretation on the context where the writer complains about "a confusing mess", with respect to interoperability between LISP and C/C++ and implies how references to ojects in memory could get lost (much like the chicken) when it is not clear who should should free memory, and when.

It might be that there is an inside joke about "where did my chicken go?" that the author knows, which would make more sense, but I am not aware of it.


I've never heard it, but there is a phrase "a chicken in every pot" to mean a promise by a politician that they will bring prosperity. It's from a 1928 election campaign by US president Hoover

So I suppose "where's my chicken" could mean - where is this prosperity I was promised before the election, although the "chicken in every pot" is not widely used so you would have to be a fairly desperate leader writer to try and coin a new idiom from it.

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    There are lots of common phrases involving chickens. Impossible to tell which was intended without more context. – T.E.D. Aug 17 '11 at 16:02
  • @TED - yes, was reading the news so my brain was in politics mode! – mgb Aug 17 '11 at 16:29
  • Re that possible interpretation of "my chicken" as "the goodies I was promised". There's the related "Where's the beef?" which is mostly famous for not being understood. Originally "beef" there meant "the substance of the proposition being considered", but people often assume it means "grounds for complaint". – FumbleFingers Aug 17 '11 at 17:05
  • I think its not just about confusion. Its about a promise that was not fulfilled. Here, it is about interoperability of LISP and C/C++, whereas in the Hoover's election campaign it was about prosperity. – karthik Jun 25 '12 at 5:45

There are quite a bit of chicken jokes which are known around the programming community this could relate to.

One famous academic chicken joke is this presentation: Chicken chicken chicken on YouTube This is basically making fun of how some people just use fancy words nobody understands and to make their presentations sound more scientific. At least that is how I understand it.

And then there is the commonly known Why did the chicken cross the road? This one obviously tries to explain why (and where) the chicken did go, an there are multiple versions of it also including time (when) and comparisons of programming languages including LISP.

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