data-reader returning nil causes exception


  • Type: Defect Defect
  • Status: Open Open
  • Priority: Minor Minor
  • Resolution: Unresolved
  • Affects Version/s: Release 1.4, Release 1.5, Release 1.6, Release 1.7, Release 1.8
  • Fix Version/s: None
  • Component/s: None
  • Labels:
  • Environment:
    clojure 1.5 beta2, Mac OS X 10.8.2, java version "1.6.0_37"
  • Patch:
    Code and Test
  • Approval:


If a data-reader returns nil, the reader throws java.lang.RuntimeException: No dispatch macro... The error message implies that there is no dispatch macro for whatever the first character of the tag happens to be.

Here's a simple example:

user=> (binding [*data-readers* {'f/ignore (constantly nil)}] 
         (read-string "#f/ignore 42 10"))
RuntimeException No dispatch macro for: f  clojure.lang.Util.runtimeException (

The original reader code did not distinguish between the absence of a data-reader and a returned value of nil from the appropriate data-reader. It therefore got confused and tried to find a dispatch macro, sending it further down the incorrect code path, ultimately yielding a misleading error message.

The original documentation did not distinguish nil as an illegal value. Clearly this bug was an oversight in the original data-reader code, not an intentional feature.

The patch uses a sentinel value to distinguish the missing data-reader case from the nil returned value case.

Patch: clj-1139-2.patch



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