As you can see below, trying to make a cons using a backquote and a colon to evaluate a form causes an error. Surely this is a tiny mistake, but Lisp is not my cup of tea.

Let's just jump to the code:

(defconst ade/cmd-pfx-plain "C-SPC" "String for prefix of package prefixes.")

;; ...some time later...

(use-package projectile


  ;; `(,(concat ade/cmd-pfx-plain " p") . projectile-command-map)
  ;; The above fails with:
  ;; "Error (use-package): Failed to parse package projectile: use-package:
  ;; projectile wants arguments acceptable to the `bind-keys'
  ;; macro, or a list of such values"

  ;; So far I'm forced to do this instead:
  ("C-SPC p" . projectile-command-map))

((If you're feeling adventurous and want to see my actual config, here it is.))

  • What happens if you remove both the backquote and the comma?
    – NickD
    Oct 29, 2022 at 19:50
  • Then I get Debugger entered--Lisp error: (error "use-package: projectile wants arguments acceptable to the 'bind-keys' macro, or a list of such values")
    – adentinger
    Oct 29, 2022 at 19:56
  • I've added a link to my actual config in the OP, but feel free to ask me to change the OP's example if needed.
    – adentinger
    Oct 29, 2022 at 20:05
  • The issue here is use-package is a macro (gnu.org/software/emacs/manual/html_node/elisp/Macros.html), which "operate on the unevaluated expressions for the arguments, not on the argument values as functions do".
    – glucas
    Oct 29, 2022 at 21:20

1 Answer 1


The behavior you are seeing is because use-package is a macro rather than a function. As noted in the manual, macros "operate on the unevaluated expressions for the arguments".

You can see what lisp a macro expands to by putting point at the end and calling pp-macroexpand-last-sexp. If you do this on your working example you will see that it includes this to bind your keymap:

(bind-key "C-SPC p"
              #'(lambda nil
                  (use-package-autoload-keymap 'projectile-command-map 'projectile nil)))

One option to do what you want is to do this yourself in an :init, for example:

(use-package projectile

  (let ((prefix (concat ade/cmd-pfx-plain " p")))
    (bind-key prefix
              #'(lambda nil
                  (use-package-autoload-keymap 'projectile-command-map 'projectile nil)))))

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