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I tried to forward a method to super, but it occasionally doesn't work. Why?

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Q: I tried to forward a method to super, but it occasionally doesn't work. Why?

Answer: This is the code in question, simplified for this example:

/** A version of Hashtable that lets you do
 * table.put("dog", "canine");, and then have
 * table.get("dogs") return "canine". **/

public class HashtableWithPlurals extends Hashtable {

  /** Make the table map both key and key + "s" to value. **/
  public Object put(Object key, Object value) {
    super.put(key + "s", value);
    return super.put(key, value);
  }
}

You need to be careful when passing to super that you fully understand what the super method does. In this case, the contract for Hashtable.put is that it will record a mapping between the key and the value in the table. However, if the hashtable gets too full, then Hashtable.put will allocate a larger array for the table, copy all the old objects over, and then recursively re-call table.put(key, value). Now, because Java resolves methods based on the runtime type of the target, in our example this recursive call within the code for Hashtable will go to HashtableWithPlurals.put(key, value), and the net result is that occasionally (when the size of the table overflows at just the wrong time), you will get an entry for "dogss" as well as for "dogs" and "dog". Now, does it state anywhere in the documentation for put that doing this recursive call is a possibility? No. In cases like this, it sure helps to have source code access to the JDK.

This tip is reprinted on JavaFAQ.nu by by courtesy of Peter Norvig I am thankful for his important contributions to my site - 21 Infrequently Answered Java Questions. Alexandre Patchine


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