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I am just curious. Is there a save guard there? . and .. is a "subdirectory" of the directory we are deleting right?

I know it's not a subdirectory but linux treat it as a file with directory property.

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up vote 20 down vote accepted

This is not a part of rm, but a part of your shell. * is a glob which your shell expands and passes to rm in the form of arguments (rm never sees a literal *, unless the glob didn't match anything, in which case a literal * is passed). Standard * globs do not expand to include filenames beginning with a dot, which includes . and ... For example:

$ tee foo bar baz .foo .bar .baz < /dev/null
$ echo *
bar baz foo
$ echo .*
. .. .bar .baz .foo
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4  
In bash, shopt -s dotglob will cause dotfiles to be matched. Other shells probably have similar features. – jordanm Jan 25 '13 at 5:19

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