Feature #9725

Do not inspect NameError target object unless verbose

Added by headius (Charles Nutter) about 6 years ago. Updated about 5 years ago.

Target version:


At least once every few months, we get an error report of JRuby raising a memory error where MRI does not due to NameError's Message object holding a reference to an object that's too large to inspect. I propose that this inspection of the target object should only be done in verbose mode.


NameError is raised when a variable-like method call fails to find a defined method. The resulting exception is created with a hidden NameError::Message that holds the object in which the method could not be found.

When name error needs to render its message, such as when it bubbles out or when #message is called, it does to_str on the NameError::Message, which ends up inspecting the target object. If this object's inspect output is large (or infinite) it can end up consuming a large amount of memory.


  • If the amount of memory required to render a NameError exceeds available memory, a very confusing and misleading memory error can be raised instead.
  • If the target object is considered sensitive data, it will end up bubbling out through potentially untrustworthy code. It is an encapsulation flaw, basically.
  • A NameError that gets held in memory will also prevent GC of the object it references.


  • NameError should not capture the target object.
  • NameError should build a message based on the target object at creation time, and only include information useful to indicate the type of object.
  • (Optional) If verbose mode is set, NameError can just do what it does now.

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