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Metadata API: ReportColumn field string syntax

Every ReportColumn in a Report metadata file has a "field" element of type string. This string describes the field that is printed in the report column, but it's not always a simple syntax like Account.Name (most of the time). Sometimes it's something like Contact$Id or Foo__c.Bar__r$Baz__c and so on. Is this syntax documented somewhere? As it is I'm mostly just guessing at it and I'd rather have a more formal understanding of the contents of this element.