Chapter 12. Understanding C++ Quirks and Oddities

Many parts of the C++ language have tricky syntax or quirky semantics. As a C++ programmer, you grow accustomed to most of this idiosyncratic behavior; it starts to feel natural. However, some aspects of C++ are a source of perennial confusion. Either books never explain them thoroughly enough, or you forget how they work and continually look them up, or both. This chapter addresses this gap by providing clear explanations for some of C++'s most niggling quirks and oddities.

Many language idiosyncrasies are covered in various chapters throughout this book. This chapter tries not to repeat those topics, by limiting itself to subjects that are not covered in detail elsewhere in the book. There is a bit of redundancy with other chapters, but the material is "sliced" in a different way in order to provide you with a new perspective.

The topics of this chapter include references, const, static, extern, typedefs, casts, scope resolution, header files, variable-length argument lists, and preprocessor macros. Although this list might appear to be a hodgepodge of topics, it is a carefully selected collection of some of the most confusing, but commonly used, aspects of the language.


Professional C++ code, including much of the code in this book, uses references extensively. It is helpful to step back and think about what exactly references are, and how they behave.

A reference in C++ is an alias for another variable. All modifications ...

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