Junio C Hamano wrote:

>                                          I have a feeling that the
> current "not copy to fix it to a stable value, but look into
> .gitmodules as a fallback" was not a designed behaviour for the
> other properties, but was done by accident and/or laziness.

It was designed.  See for example the thread surrounding [1]:

| And when you are on a superproject branch actively developing inside a
| submodule, you may want to increase fetch-activity to fetch all new
| commits in the submodule even if they aren't referenced in the
| superproject (yet), as that might be just what your fellow developers
| are about to do. And the person setting up that branch could do that
| once for all users so they don't have to repeat it in every clone. And
| when switching away from that branch all those developers cannot forget
| to reconfigure to fetch-on-demand, so not having that in .git/config is
| a plus here too.


[1] http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.comp.version-control.git/161193/focus=161357
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