Writing a Blog Post About M Lang/M Language/Power Query Formula Language/Power BI/Get & Transform

Informally Known As WTF is M

me@jaykilleen.com wrote this over 6 years ago and it was last updated over 6 years ago.

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Power Query Formula Language is too long
M is too short

Back in February 2016 I asked the question on the PowerBI Community Forums whether there is an Official Short Name for Power Query Formula Language Informally Known as M. This extends to the products that utilise this language including Power BI, Power Query, Excel Get & Transform.

The short answer was no and that M would, over time, become well known like R or C. Even though M is the informal name and Power Query Formula Language is the actual name.

I just wanted to share this post to do a state of the land when it comes to 'how this is working out' and what is actually happening rather than what we are all hoping would happen.

As you can tell from the title there is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to what we are calling this thing that we are using to help us in our data analysis and visualisation. You probably call it either M or M Lang or M Language or Power Query Formula Language or PowerBI or Get & Transform or some other variation of either of those or, as we can see in some other peoples blog posts, probably just all of them together. Case in point:

Query Folding And Writing Your Own SQL Queries In Power Query/Power BI/Excel Get & Transform
Performance Tip: Partition your tables at crossjoins where possible – PowerQuery PowerBI

The issue seems to be that M has alternatives to what we call it. I am sure C had alternatives when it was launched too and that possibly over time the community converged on just calling it the short hand C. However when C launched back in 1969 there was no internet, communities were very small and people did not write things like blog posts or have oceans of information to trawl through to learn.

M, may, over time become as polarising as C and when you do a Google search for M you will see the wiki result M (programming language) - Wikipedia. But this is never going to happen.

So what happens next?

Microsoft needs to rename the reference library for M from Introduction to Power Query (informally known as "M") Formula Language to something else. My preference would simply be:

  • M Language

Second step is to solidify the name. Make it holy and allow the community to polarise it. Do not do things like renaming Power Query to Get & Transform because it ruins the equity around the original name and creates ambiguity among us all. Is Power Query even going to be a thing in 5 years.

Finally the products utilising these tools need to be united. I understand Excel Get & Transform is not the same as PowerBI as PowerBI focuses more on the visualisation and Get & Transform as an ETL alternative. But under the hood they are the same... so just call it PowerBI for Desktop and PowerBI for Excel??

Keep it clean. You use PowerBI as the GUI and M Language when you want to get under the hood and write or edit some of the queries generated by the GUI.

Anyway, enough ranting.