As most others have observed, "-n" is interpreted literally if placed anywhere but immediately after the
Historically, UNIX utilities were all like this -- they looked for options only immediately after the command name. It was likely either BSD or GNU who pioneered the more flexible style (though I could be wrong), as even now POSIX specifies the old way as correct (see Guideline 9, and also
man 3 getopt on a Linux system). Anyway, even though most Linux utilities these days use the new style, there are some holdouts like
Echo is a mess, standards-wise, in that there were at least two fundamentally conflicting versions in play by the time POSIX came into being. On the one hand, you have SYSV-style, which interprets backslash-escaped characters but otherwise treats its arguments literally, accepting no options. On the other, you have BSD-style, which treats an initial
-n as a special case and outputs absolutely everything else literally. And since
echo is so convenient, you have thousands of shell scripts that depend on one behavior or the other:
echo Usage: my_awesome_script '[-a]' '[-b]' '[-c]' '[-n]'
echo -a does a thing.
echo -b does something else.
echo -c makes sure -a works right.
echo -- DON\'T USE -n -- it\'s not finished! --
Because of the "treat everything literally" semantic, it's impossible to even add a new option to
echo without breaking things. If GNU used the flexible options scheme on it, hell would break loose.
Incidentally, for best compatibility between Bourne shell implementations, use
printf rather than
UPDATED to explain why
echo in particular does not use flexible options.