Rick and Morty Teach JavaScript Hoisting

Rick and Morty Teach JavaScript Hoisting

This is a fan-fictional representation of Rick and Morty. This post is not sponsored by the show.
Written by Raji Ayinla

Morty: Here’s a question I’d like answered. Why does this work? What is this Jedi nonsense?

sayMyNameSayMyName('Morty'); // 'I said your name, Morty.'
function sayMyNameSayMyName(name){
return `I said your name,${name}.`;

Rick: Hoisting.

Morty: Yeah, yeah, but what is hoisting exactly?

Rick: I will attempt to utilize the gerund that labels this quirky phenomenon to help with the definition. Here goes. Declarations, whether they are a variable or function, are lifted up to the top of your program.

Morty: Okay, that’s digestible. Sort of. But wait…so you’re telling me that this can’t be hoisted with the Force?

sayMyNameSayMyName('Morty'); // TypeError: undefined is not a function
var sayMyNameSayMyName = function(name){
return `I said your name,${name}.`;

Rick: Well, you see, declarations get special treatment. Assignments are second class, so to speak. They don’t get the privilege of being hoisted.

Morty: But why?

Rick:It’s the execution context. That’s to blame.

Morty: Execution what?

Rick: Every line of code has a context. There are two key contexts to keep in mind. You have the global and the function context. It looks like this:

/*Global--woohooo I'm freee*/
two(); // 2
function two(){
return 2;

Morty: Wait. Context is the same as scope, right?

Rick: *Sigh*

You have much to learn young Jedi. No, scope refers to access. If a variable is declared in a global scope, it can be accessed by functions or blocks. Functions are unicorns because they create their own scope. But that differs from context.
You see, we can all say that we are from planet Earth. That is our global context. But we cannot all say that we are from Washington DC. That is the function context. In JavaScript, you can determine the current context with the this keyword.

Morty: So what does context have to do with hoisting?

Rick: Yes, so…

First, imagine that the interpreter is an alien who found your signal and is now looking for you. The alien would start on planet earth, our global context. There are seven continents on Earth. It might start in North America.

Morty: Why?

Rick: It loves North America’s bizarre geometry.

Anyway, it will then create a scope chain containing your possible country, then your state, then your city, then your street.

Now, let’s try to look within the mind of JavaScript’s interpreter. When the interpreter reads code, it automatically enters the global context.

The interpreter does something similar to the alien’s search tactics by first looking for a function invocation(the signal). It won’t execute it until it can create the context(find your info).

There are two stages the interpreter goes through to accomplish its mission: the creation stage and the execution stage.

1) Mind you, we’re entering the creation stage.

A function can have multiple functions within it, so the interpreter will initialize a scope chain(country,state,city,street).

It will create a variable object to hold all sorts of arguments, parameters, and function/variable declarations.

It then creates this to store the current context.

This is an oversimplification. We’ll simplify it further by only concerning ourselves with how the interpreter deals with function declarations versus variable declarations.


When the interpreter’s nose bumps against a function keyword, it looks for the name. It then stores a reference to that function name in variables object.


When the interpreter’s nose bumps against a var, let, or any keyword associated with variables, it first stores the variable name in variable objects. Then it automatically initializes it with undefined.

Can you start to see how assigning a function to a variable and hoping it will be hoisted does not work? When we invoke myNameIs(name), the interpreter will find our function expression, but it will only read in the variable name and assign undefined to it.

sayMyNameSayMyName('Morty'); // 'I said your name, Morty.'
myNameIs('Morty'); // undefined
function sayMyNameSayMyName(name){
return `I said your name,${name}.`;

var myNameIs = function(name){
return `your name is,${name}.`;

You’ll understand this more in the next stage.

2) The Execution Stage

In the execution stage, values are assigned to variables within the execution context.
The problem with calling myNameis() early is that the interpreter has assigned undefined tomyNameIs() in the creation stage. If you had invoked myNameIs() after the function expression, the interpreter would have had time to assign the value of myNameIs() within the global context during the execution stage.

Invoking sayMyNameSayMyName() works because a reference to the declared function is stored in the creation stage. When the code is executed, we’re able to run it without a problem.


Morty: So…hoisting is all about execution context?

Rick: Yep.