In a recent post to his blog Stas Malyshev talks about shortcuts - those things that languages include to make your code shorter and your life easier...or do they?
PHP is notorious among scripting languages for it's verbose syntax - you have to spell out many things that are much shorter in other languages. Some people think it's very bad that they can't be "expressive", meaning writing more clever code with less keystrokes. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are not.
He talks about the upcoming syntax change in PHP 5.4 for defining arrays (being able to use square brackets) and how it makes sense based on the standards of other languages using a similar syntax. He gives one bad example from Python, though - how Python 2 handled the catching of exceptions and assigning the result.
Some people in PHP community think all "shortcuts" are best to be avoided. I think some of them could be useful, provided clarity is not sacrificed and there's not "too much magic".