Using functions with "action-at-a-distance" through sys.settraceback may be okay for an obscure feature that can't be had any other way yet doesn't merit changes to the language, but that's not the situation for decorators. The widely held view here is that decorators need to be added as a syntactic feature to avoid the problems with the postfix notation used in 2.2 and 2.3. Decorators are slated to be an important new language feature and their design needs to be forward-looking, not constrained by what can be implemented in 2.3.
Overall unfamiliarity with the concept. For people who have a passing acquaintance with algebra (or even basic arithmetic) or have used at least one other programming language, much of Python is intuitive. Very few people will have had any experience with the decorator concept before encountering it in Python. There's just no strong preexisting meme that captures the concept.
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In general, functions in Python may also have side effects rather than just turning an input into an output. The print() function is a basic example of this: it returns None while having the side effect of outputting something to the console. However, to understand decorators, it is enough to think about functions as something that turns given arguments into a value.
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