FORTUNE(6) UNIX Reference Manual FORTUNE(6)NAMEfortune - print a random, hopefully interesting, adage
SYNOPSISfortune [-aefilosw] [-n length] [ -m pattern] [[n%] file/dir/all]
When fortune is run with no arguments it prints out a random epigram.
Epigrams are divided into several categories, where each category is
sub-divided into those which are potentially offensive and those which
The options are as follows:
-a Choose from all lists of maxims, both offensive and not. (See
the -o option for more information on offensive fortunes.)
-e Consider all fortune files to be of equal size (see discussion
below on multiple files).
-f Print out the list of files which would be searched, but don't
print a fortune.
-l Long dictums only. See -n on how ``long'' is defined in this
Print out all fortunes which match the basic regular expression
pattern. The syntax of these expressions depends on how your
system defines re_comp(3) or regcomp(3), but it should neverthe‐
less be similar to the syntax used in grep(1).
The fortunes are output to standard output, while the names of
the file from which each fortune comes are printed to standard
error. Either or both can be redirected; if standard output is
redirected to a file, the result is a valid fortunes database
file. If standard error is also redirected to this file, the
result is still valid, but there will be ``bogus'' fortunes,
i.e. the filenames themselves, in parentheses. This can be use‐
ful if you wish to remove the gathered matches from their origi‐
nal files, since each filename-record will precede the records
from the file it names.
Set the longest fortune length (in characters) considered to be
``short'' (the default is 160). All fortunes longer than this
are considered ``long''. Be careful! If you set the length too
short and ask for short fortunes, or too long and ask for long
ones, fortune goes into a never-ending thrash loop.
-o Choose only from potentially offensive aphorisms.
Please, please, please request a potentially offensive fortune
if and only if you believe, deep in your heart, that you are
willing to be offended. (And that you'll just quit using -o
rather than give us grief about it, okay?)
... let us keep in mind the basic governing philosophy of The
Brotherhood, as handsomely summarized in these words: we believe
in healthy, hearty laughter -- at the expense of the whole human
race, if needs be. Needs be.
--H. Allen Smith, "Rude Jokes"
-s Short apothegms only. See -n on which fortunes are considered
-i Ignore case for -m patterns.
-w Wait before termination for an amount of time calculated from
the number of characters in the message. This is useful if it
is executed as part of the logout procedure to guarantee that
the message can be read before the screen is cleared.
The user may specify alternate sayings. You can specify a specific
file, a directory which contains one or more files, or the special word
all which says to use all the standard databases. Any of these may be
preceded by a percentage, which is a number n between 0 and 100 inclu‐
sive, followed by a %. If it is, there will be a n percent probability
that an adage will be picked from that file or directory. If the per‐
centages do not sum to 100, and there are specifications without per‐
centages, the remaining percent will apply to those files and/or direc‐
tories, in which case the probability of selecting from one of them
will be based on their relative sizes.
As an example, given two databases funny and not-funny, with funny
twice as big (in number of fortunes, not raw file size), saying
fortune funny not-funny
will get you fortunes out of funny two-thirds of the time. The command
fortune 90% funny 10% not-funny
will pick out 90% of its fortunes from funny (the ``10% not-funny'' is
unnecessary, since 10% is all that's left).
The -e option says to consider all files equal; thus
fortune-e funny not-funny
is equivalent to
fortune 50% funny 50% not-funny
This fortune also supports the BSD method of appending ``-o'' to data‐
base names to specify offensive fortunes. However this is not how for‐
tune stores them: offensive fortunes are stored in a seperate directory
without the ``-o'' infix. A plain name (i.e., not a path to a file or
directory) that ends in ``-o'' will be assumed to be an offensive data‐
base, and will have its suffix stripped off and be searched in the
offensive directory (even if the neither of the -a or -o options were
specified). This feature is not only for backwards-compatibility, but
also to allow users to distinguish between inoffensive and offensive
databases of the same name.
For example, assuming there is a database named definitions in both the
inoffensive and potentially offensive collections, then the following
command will select an inoffensive definition 90% of the time, and a
potentially offensive definition for the remaining 10%:
fortune 90% definitions definitions-o
Note: these are the defaults as defined at compile time.
Directory for innoffensive fortunes.
Directory for offensive fortunes.
If a particular set of fortunes is particularly unwanted, there is an
easy solution: delete the associated .dat file. This leaves the data
intact, should the file later be wanted, but since fortune no longer
finds the pointers file, it ignores the text file.
The division of fortunes into offensive and non-offensive by directory,
rather than via the `-o' file infix, is not 100% compatible with origi‐
nal BSD fortune. Although the `-o' infix is recognised as referring to
an offensive database, the offensive database files still need to be in
a seperate directory. The workaround, of course, is to move the `-o'
files into the offensive directory (with or without renaming), and to
use the -a option.
The supplied fortune databases have been attacked, in order to correct
orthographical and grammatical errors, and particularly to reduce
redundancy and repetition and redundancy. But especially to avoid
repititiousness. This has not been a complete success. In the
process, some fortunes may also have been lost.
The fortune databases are now divided into a larger number of smaller
files, some organized by format (poetry, definitions), and some by con‐
tent (religion, politics). There are parallel files in the main direc‐
tory and in the offensive files directory (e.g., fortunes/definitions
and fortunes/off/definitions). Not all the potentially offensive for‐
tunes are in the offensive fortunes files, nor are all the fortunes in
the offensive files potentially offensive, probably, though a strong
attempt has been made to achieve greater consistency. Also, a better
division might be made.
This version of fortune is based on the NetBSD fortune 1.4, but with a
number of bug fixes and enhancements.
The original fortune/strfile format used a single file; strfile read
the text file and converted it to null-delimited strings, which were
stored after the table of pointers in the .dat file. By NetBSD fortune
1.4, this had changed to two separate files: the .dat file was only the
header (the table of pointers, plus flags; see strfile.h), and the text
strings were left in their own file. The potential problem with this
is that text file and header file may get out of synch, but the advan‐
tage is that the text files can be easily edited without resorting to
unstr, and there is a potential savings in disk space (on the assump‐
tion that the sysadmin kept both .dat file with strings and the text
Many of the enhancements made over the NetBSD version assumed a Linux
system, and thus caused it to fail under other platforms, including
BSD. The source code has since been made more generic, and currently
works on SunOS 4.x as well as Linux, with support for more platforms
expected in the future. Note that some bugs were inadvertantly discov‐
ered and fixed during this process.
At a guess, a great many people have worked on this program, many with‐
out leaving attributions.
SEE ALSOre_comp(3), regcomp(3), strfile(1), unstr(1)BSD Experimental 19 April 94 [May. 97] FORTUNE(6)