This question is not a duplicate of Why alias behave different than running bash command directly? because I have tried that solution and it hasn't worked. I replaced all my single quotes with double quotes and vice-versa. The command works neither way.

I am trying to implement an alias, sys, that will open a file I keep track of changes to my system in, sys.md, append a date, yank that line, paste the line, replace it with -'s for the markdown h2 format, open a new line, and insert a - for the markdown bullet format. From vi.stackexchange.com I received some help implementing the command. It works:

nvim +'$pu_|r!date' +'norm yypVr-o ' ~/notes/sys.md

When I replace the single quotes with double quotes the $pu_ is evaluated and I get

zsh: event not found: date

So the single quotes are important. However, when I implement the alias

alias sys="nvim +'$pu_|r!date' +'norm yypVr-o- ' ~/notes/sys.md"

The alias fails. nvim opens , but the date is appended to the second line and not the bottom. Clearly $pu_ is being evaluated as a variable from BASH. (nvim's syntax checker even shows it to be evaluated.) Inverting the doubles and singles to yield

alias sys='nvim +"$pu_|r!date" +"norm yypVr-o- " ~/notes/sys.md'

Has the same behavior. Backticks,

alias sys=`nvim +"$pu_|r!date" +"norm yypVr-o- " ~/notes/sys.md`

Freezes bash on source .zshrc. I don't know how to proceed. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • Does escaping the $ in $pu_ not work? Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 17:36
  • To be honest, I didn't think of that.
    – mas
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


Just put it into a bash function (you can add the function to .bashrc):

sys() {
    nvim +'$pu_|r!date' +'norm yypVr-o ' ~/notes/sys.md

Then you can invoke it just like you would do this with an alias.

  • 1
    Thanks. I ended up reforming the command to avoid the $pu_ variable but this is a brilliant work around and I think deserves the answer acceptance.
    – mas
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 14:21

If your only problem is to understand how to have a single quote character inside a single quoted string, here is the method. Use:


for the single quote character inside the single quoted string.

This ends the current quoted string, then inserts a quoted quote and then starts a new quoted string.

BTW: since this is a frequent problem, bosh comes with a method to automate this conversion. You could fetch schilytools and compile them and then play with bosh. If you call:

set -o hashcmds
#b aliasname aliasreplacement

The value in aliasreplacement is entered in raw mode and if you later call:

alias aliasname

you see the alias in the correctly quoted form and if you enter

alias -R aliasname

you see the alias in raw mode.

  • You're saying there's no BASH solution? I thought of escaping the ' but didn't try it until you mentioned it. And yeah, it doesn't work.
    – mas
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 13:58
  • If this escaping really does not work in bash, then you should make a bug report. I however guess that you did not follow my example.
    – schily
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 23:15
  • I did not downvote you. Escaping all the single quotes did not solve the problem, it merely changed it. I cannot recall the exact error message. weirdan's solution worked around the BASH quoting and variable evaluation problems with the command in particular in a simple manner and so I accepted it. I am not going to install software packages with limited support in my operating system (bosh is in the aur only and I try to avoid the aur; schilytools isn't even available except from your sourceforge) in order to solve a problem when there's a simpler solution.
    – mas
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 12:45
  • You do not need to follow my advise, but I believe schilytools are important on a Linux installation, sice they give you e.g. a SHA3 aware hash program, a correctly working tar and a POSIX certified make program. If your distro does not include these programs, you may like to ask your distro why this is missing.
    – schily
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 15:06

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