What’s the Most Pythonic Way to Alias Method Names?

In contrast to a normal Python method, an alias method accesses an original method via a different name—mostly for programming convenience. An example is the iterable method __next__() that can also be accessed with next(). You can define your own alias method by adding the statement a = b to your class definition. This creates an alias method a() for the original method b().

Example Alias

Here’s a minimal example:

class Car:

  def change_oil(self):
    print('oil changed')
  def drive_to_cinema(self):
    print('movie watched')

  # Alias Method Names
  oil = change_oil
  cinema = drive_to_cinema

# Create new car object
porsche = Car()

# Test original and alias method calls
# oil changed

# oil changed

# movie watched

# movie watched

You create one Car object porsche. The original method change_oil() may be too lengthy, so you decide to add an alias method to the class definition oil = change_oil. Now, you can access the same method in two different ways: porsche.change_oil() or simply porsche.oil().

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Are Alias Methods Pythonic at All?

You should note, however, that using an alias at all is not very Pythonic! The Zen of Python clearly states that there should be one, and only one, way to accomplish a thing.

>>> import this
The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters         
 Beautiful is better than ugly.
 Explicit is better than implicit.
 Simple is better than complex.
 Complex is better than complicated.
 Flat is better than nested.
 Sparse is better than dense.
 Readability counts.
 Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
 Although practicality beats purity.
 Errors should never pass silently.
 Unless explicitly silenced.
 In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
 There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
 Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
 Now is better than never.
 Although never is often better than right now.
 If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
 If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
 Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

What is Aliasing Anyway?

Aliasing happens if you access the same memory location via different symbolic names. If you change the data through one name, the other name pointing to the same data will see the change as well!

Alias Example

In the graphic, both variables a and b point to the same imaginary object with value 42. You delete the object with a.delete(). Now, both variables a and b point to the empty object. Variable b sees a change—even though it didn’t change anything!

“In computing, aliasing describes a situation in which a data location in memory can be accessed through different symbolic names in the program. Thus, modifying the data through one name implicitly modifies the values associated with all aliased names, which may not be expected by the programmer. As a result, aliasing makes it particularly difficult to understand, analyze and optimize programs. Aliasing analysers intend to make and compute useful information for understanding aliasing in programs.” — Wikipedia

Where to Go From Here?

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