I wonder if David was a Perl programmer before he was a C programmer? 'die on error' actually makes sense in Perl, because library users can trap it. But they can't trap abort(). You should abort() about as often as you BUG_ON() in the kernel: when you can't continue, your internal state is blown and can't be fixed, and the world is ending. And nothing you can predict (e.g. OOM) should lead you into such a state.