We've noticed that some of our automatic tests fail when they run at 00:30 but work fine the rest of the day. They fail with the message

gimme gimme gimme

in stderr, which wasn't expected. Why are we getting this output?

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    Linking in: Where is the latest source code of man command for linux?
    – Jeff Schaller
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 14:29
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    I don't get it. Why does your test script call man where it should fail?
    – Joshua
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 16:20
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    @Joshua Because we wanted the "manpath" - 'man -w'. See the answer. Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 17:48
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    for the sake of history, why do you need to do a 'man -w' every minutes? what are you really testing? Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 10:12
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    @OlivierDulac It's being triggered just once in the test. We've rearanged the order of tests and suddenly this error apeared as it was triggered at 00:30... Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 11:52

3 Answers 3


Dear @colmmacuait, I think that if you type "man" at 0001 hours it should print "gimme gimme gimme". #abba
@marnanel - 3 November 2011

er, that was my fault, I suggested it. Sorry.

Pretty much the whole story is in the commit. The maintainer of man is a good friend of mine, and one day six years ago I jokingly said to him that if you invoke man after midnight it should print "gimme gimme gimme", because of the Abba song called "Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight":

Well, he did actually put it in. A few people were amused to discover it, and we mostly forgot about it until today.

I can't speak for Col, obviously, but I didn't expect this to ever cause any problems: what sort of test would break on parsing the output of man with no page specified? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that one turned up eventually, but it did take six years.

(The commit message calls me Thomas, which is my legal first name though I don't use it online much.)

This issue has been fixed with commit 84bde8: Running man with man -w will no longer trigger this easter egg.


This is an easter egg in man. When you run man without specifying the page or with -w, it outputs "gimme gimme gimme" to stderr, but only at 00:30:

# date +%T -s "00:30:00"
# man -w
gimme gimme gimme

The exit code is always 0.

The correct output should always be:

# man -w
# echo $?
# man
What manual page do you want?
# echo $?

The string "gimme gimme gimme" can be found in RHEL, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Debian and probably more, so it's not really distro specific. You can grep your man binary to verify.

This code is responsible for the output, added by this commit:

src/man.c-1167- if (first_arg == argc) {
src/man.c-1168-   /* 
http://twitter.com/#!/marnanel/status/132280557190119424 */
src/man.c-1169-   time_t now = time (NULL);
src/man.c-1170-   struct tm *localnow = localtime (&now);
src/man.c-1171-   if (localnow &&
src/man.c-1172-       localnow->tm_hour == 0 && localnow->tm_min == 30)
src/man.c:1173:     fprintf (stderr, "gimme gimme gimme\n");

I have contacted RHEL support about this issue.

The string comes from well known ABBA song Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).

The developer of the man-db, Colin Watson, decided that there was enough fun and the story won't get forgotten and removed the easter egg completely.

Thank you Colin!

  • 166
    On platforms with faketime available you can try this without even needing to change the system time: faketime '00:30:00' man (Debian 8). Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 15:05
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    @rrauenza There is the buzilla ticket: bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=1515352 Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 7:41
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    The author has now tightened the easter egg to only run on man, not man -w: git.savannah.nongnu.org/cgit/man-db.git/commit/src/… and Colin's comment on Marnanel's confessio^Wanswer. Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 10:09
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    Let's mention that the initial commit triggered at 12:01am. A followup commit changed that to 12:30am with the commit log message "half past twelve" which is again quoted from the same song.
    – egmont
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:00
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    @0x90 man -w prints the current manual page search path, which is the sort of thing you might quite reasonably use as a building block for something else, for example if the thing you were automating involved installing or testing manual pages. Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 20:06

After some reflection, I've removed this Easter egg. It'll be gone in the upcoming man-db 2.8.0.

I'm glad that it made some people smile, which after all was the whole purpose of it, and my Twitter notifications and so on today suggest that most people thought it was more amusing than annoying. Still, some people did find it annoying, and six years seems like a pretty good run for that sort of thing; it probably isn't going to get significantly better exposure than it already unexpectedly has by way of this question. Time to put it to bed.

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    I'm really sad you decided that. IMO too many people have it out for easter eggs.
    – Seth
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 1:52
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    I won't rule out adding something different in the future, albeit with more care! It was getting a bit stale, though, and humour does require novelty. Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 1:54
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    I have to agree with @Seth, it is sad to see something go which made most of us smile, we need more of that actually on this world.
    – Videonauth
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 3:00
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    I hope this does not break any workflows xkcd.com/1172
    – lakshayg
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 4:41
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    @ColinWatson I think disabling this in a default flow is a good idea, so it doesn't break anyone's workflow. But at the same time, it's a shame such a masterpiece had to be removed. You could add a special flag like man -abba and when fired after midnight would give the easter egg. Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 11:07

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