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> The manual also sometimes states "returns false", see e.g. `pcall`.
> I'm willing to believe that the phrase "a false value" was in this case
> chosen with hair-splitting exactness.

Yes. "False value" means "a value that behaves as false in boolean
contexts." (or simply "nil or false"). The idea was to avoid being
specific about the difference "nil" x "false".  (Sometimes I wonder
whether it would be better if the "nil-message" paradigm was
"false-message" instead...)

-- Roberto