Part 1 out of 11

#========= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.9.10, 01 JUL 1992 =========#

This is the Jargon File, a comprehensive compendium of hacker slang
illuminating many aspects of hackish tradition, folklore, and humor.

This document (the Jargon File) is in the public domain, to be freely
used, shared, and modified. There are (by intention) no legal
restraints on what you can do with it, but there are traditions about
its proper use to which many hackers are quite strongly attached.
Please extend the courtesy of proper citation when you quote the File,
ideally with a version number, as it will change and grow over time.
(Examples of appropriate citation form: "Jargon File 2.9.10" or
"The on-line hacker Jargon File, version 2.9.10, 01 JUL 1992".)

The Jargon File is a common heritage of the hacker culture.
Over the years a number of individuals have volunteered considerable
time to maintaining the File and been recognized by the net at large
as editors of it. Editorial responsibilities include: to collate
contributions and suggestions from others; to seek out corroborating
information; to cross-reference related entries; to keep the file in a
consistent format; and to announce and distribute updated versions
periodically. Current volunteer editors include:

Eric Raymond (215)-296-5718

Although there is no requirement that you do so, it is considered good
form to check with an editor before quoting the File in a published work
or commercial product. We may have additional information that would be
helpful to you and can assist you in framing your quote to reflect
not only the letter of the File but its spirit as well.

All contributions and suggestions about this file sent to a volunteer
editor are gratefully received and will be regarded, unless otherwise
labelled, as freely given donations for possible use as part of this
public-domain file.

From time to time a snapshot of this file has been polished, edited,
and formatted for commercial publication with the cooperation of the
volunteer editors and the hacker community at large. If you wish to
have a bound paper copy of this file, you may find it convenient to
purchase one of these. They often contain additional material not
found in on-line versions. The two `authorized' editions so far are
described in the Revision History section; there may be more in the


:About This File:

This document is a collection of slang terms used by various subcultures
of computer hackers. Though some technical material is included for
background and flavor, it is not a technical dictionary; what we
describe here is the language hackers use among themselves for fun,
social communication, and technical debate.

The `hacker culture' is actually a loosely networked collection of
subcultures that is nevertheless conscious of some important shared
experiences, shared roots, and shared values. It has its own myths,
heroes, villains, folk epics, in-jokes, taboos, and dreams. Because
hackers as a group are particularly creative people who define
themselves partly by rejection of `normal' values and working habits, it
has unusually rich and conscious traditions for an intentional culture
less than 35 years old.

As usual with slang, the special vocabulary of hackers helps hold their
culture together --- it helps hackers recognize each other's places in
the community and expresses shared values and experiences. Also as
usual, *not* knowing the slang (or using it inappropriately) defines one
as an outsider, a mundane, or (worst of all in hackish vocabulary)
possibly even a {suit}. All human cultures use slang in this threefold
way --- as a tool of communication, and of inclusion, and of exclusion.

Among hackers, though, slang has a subtler aspect, paralleled perhaps in
the slang of jazz musicians and some kinds of fine artists but hard to
detect in most technical or scientific cultures; parts of it are code
for shared states of *consciousness*. There is a whole range of altered
states and problem-solving mental stances basic to high-level hacking
which don't fit into conventional linguistic reality any better than a
Coltrane solo or one of Maurits Escher's `trompe l'oeil' compositions
(Escher is a favorite of hackers), and hacker slang encodes these
subtleties in many unobvious ways. As a simple example, take the
distinction between a {kluge} and an {elegant} solution, and the
differing connotations attached to each. The distinction is not only of
engineering significance; it reaches right back into the nature of the
generative processes in program design and asserts something important
about two different kinds of relationship between the hacker and the
hack. Hacker slang is unusually rich in implications of this kind, of
overtones and undertones that illuminate the hackish psyche.

But there is more. Hackers, as a rule, love wordplay and are very
conscious and inventive in their use of language. These traits seem to
be common in young children, but the conformity-enforcing machine we are
pleased to call an educational system bludgeons them out of most of us
before adolescence. Thus, linguistic invention in most subcultures of
the modern West is a halting and largely unconscious process. Hackers,
by contrast, regard slang formation and use as a game to be played for
conscious pleasure. Their inventions thus display an almost unique
combination of the neotenous enjoyment of language-play with the
discrimination of educated and powerful intelligence. Further, the
electronic media which knit them together are fluid, `hot' connections,
well adapted to both the dissemination of new slang and the ruthless
culling of weak and superannuated specimens. The results of this
process give us perhaps a uniquely intense and accelerated view of
linguistic evolution in action.

Hackish slang also challenges some common linguistic and
anthropological assumptions. For example, it has recently become
fashionable to speak of `low-context' versus `high-context'
communication, and to classify cultures by the preferred context level
of their languages and art forms. It is usually claimed that
low-context communication (characterized by precision, clarity, and
completeness of self-contained utterances) is typical in cultures
which value logic, objectivity, individualism, and competition; by
contrast, high-context communication (elliptical, emotive,
nuance-filled, multi-modal, heavily coded) is associated with cultures
which value subjectivity, consensus, cooperation, and tradition. What
then are we to make of hackerdom, which is themed around extremely
low-context interaction with computers and exhibits primarily
"low-context" values, but cultivates an almost absurdly high-context
slang style?

The intensity and consciousness of hackish invention make a compilation
of hacker slang a particularly effective window into the surrounding
culture --- and, in fact, this one is the latest version of an evolving
compilation called the `Jargon File', maintained by hackers themselves
for over 15 years. This one (like its ancestors) is primarily a
lexicon, but also includes `topic entries' which collect background or
sidelight information on hacker culture that would be awkward to try to
subsume under individual entries.

Though the format is that of a reference volume, it is intended that the
material be enjoyable to browse. Even a complete outsider should find
at least a chuckle on nearly every page, and much that is amusingly
thought-provoking. But it is also true that hackers use humorous
wordplay to make strong, sometimes combative statements about what they
feel. Some of these entries reflect the views of opposing sides in
disputes that have been genuinely passionate; this is deliberate. We
have not tried to moderate or pretty up these disputes; rather we have
attempted to ensure that *everyone's* sacred cows get gored,
impartially. Compromise is not particularly a hackish virtue, but the
honest presentation of divergent viewpoints is.

The reader with minimal computer background who finds some references
incomprehensibly technical can safely ignore them. We have not felt it
either necessary or desirable to eliminate all such; they, too,
contribute flavor, and one of this document's major intended audiences
--- fledgling hackers already partway inside the culture --- will
benefit from them.

A selection of longer items of hacker folklore and humor is included in
{appendix A}. The `outside' reader's attention is particularly directed
to {appendix B}, "A Portrait of J. Random Hacker". {Appendix C} is a
bibliography of non-technical works which have either influenced or
described the hacker culture.

Because hackerdom is an intentional culture (one each individual must
choose by action to join), one should not be surprised that the line
between description and influence can become more than a little blurred.
Earlier versions of the Jargon File have played a central role in
spreading hacker language and the culture that goes with it to
successively larger populations, and we hope and expect that this one
will do likewise.

:Of Slang, Jargon, and Techspeak:

Linguists usually refer to informal language as `slang' and reserve the
term `jargon' for the technical vocabularies of various occupations.
However, the ancestor of this collection was called the `Jargon File',
and hackish slang is traditionally `the jargon'. When talking about the
jargon there is therefore no convenient way to distinguish what a
*linguist* would call hackers' jargon --- the formal vocabulary they
learn from textbooks, technical papers, and manuals.

To make a confused situation worse, the line between hackish slang and
the vocabulary of technical programming and computer science is fuzzy,
and shifts over time. Further, this vocabulary is shared with a wider
technical culture of programmers, many of whom are not hackers and do
not speak or recognize hackish slang.

Accordingly, this lexicon will try to be as precise as the facts of
usage permit about the distinctions among three categories:
*`slang': informal language from mainstream English or non-technicalsubcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc).
*`jargon': without qualifier, denotes informal `slangy' languagepeculiar to hackers --- the subject of this lexicon.
*`techspeak': the formal technical vocabulary of programming, computerscience, electronics, and other fields connected to hacking.

This terminology will be consistently used throughout the remainder of
this lexicon.

The jargon/techspeak distinction is the delicate one. A lot of
techspeak originated as jargon, and there is a steady continuing uptake
of jargon into techspeak. On the other hand, a lot of jargon arises
from overgeneralization of techspeak terms (there is more about this in
the "Jargon Construction" section below).

In general, we have considered techspeak any term that communicates
primarily by a denotation well established in textbooks, technical
dictionaries, or standards documents.

A few obviously techspeak terms (names of operating systems, languages,
or documents) are listed when they are tied to hacker folklore that
isn't covered in formal sources, or sometimes to convey critical
historical background necessary to understand other entries to which
they are cross-referenced. Some other techspeak senses of jargon words
are listed in order to make the jargon senses clear; where the text does
not specify that a straight technical sense is under discussion, these
are marked with `[techspeak]' as an etymology. Some entries have a
primary sense marked this way, with subsequent jargon meanings explained
in terms of it.

We have also tried to indicate (where known) the apparent origins of
terms. The results are probably the least reliable information in the
lexicon, for several reasons. For one thing, it is well known that many
hackish usages have been independently reinvented multiple times, even
among the more obscure and intricate neologisms. It often seems that
the generative processes underlying hackish jargon formation have an
internal logic so powerful as to create substantial parallelism across
separate cultures and even in different languages! For another, the
networks tend to propagate innovations so quickly that `first use' is
often impossible to pin down. And, finally, compendia like this one
alter what they observe by implicitly stamping cultural approval on
terms and widening their use.

:Revision History:

The original Jargon File was a collection of hacker jargon from
technical cultures including the MIT AI Lab, the Stanford AI lab (SAIL),
and others of the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities including Bolt,
Beranek and Newman (BBN), Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), and
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

The Jargon File (hereafter referred to as `jargon-1' or `the File') was
begun by Raphael Finkel at Stanford in 1975. From this time until the
plug was finally pulled on the SAIL computer in 1991, the File was named
AIWORD.RF[UP,DOC] there. Some terms in it date back considerably
earlier ({frob} and some senses of {moby}, for instance, go back to the
Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT and are believed to date at least back
to the early 1960s). The revisions of jargon-1 were all unnumbered and
may be collectively considered `Version 1'.

In 1976, Mark Crispin, having seen an announcement about the File on the
SAIL computer, {FTP}ed a copy of the File to MIT. He noticed that it
was hardly restricted to `AI words' and so stored the file on his
directory as AI:MRC;SAIL JARGON.

The file was quickly renamed JARGON > (the `>' means numbered with a
version number) as a flurry of enhancements were made by Mark Crispin
and Guy L. Steele Jr. Unfortunately, amidst all this activity, nobody
thought of correcting the term `jargon' to `slang' until the compendium
had already become widely known as the Jargon File.

Raphael Finkel dropped out of active participation shortly thereafter
and Don Woods became the SAIL contact for the File (which was
subsequently kept in duplicate at SAIL and MIT, with periodic

The File expanded by fits and starts until about 1983; Richard Stallman
was prominent among the contributors, adding many MIT and ITS-related

In Spring 1981, a hacker named Charles Spurgeon got a large chunk of the
File published in Russell Brand's `CoEvolution Quarterly' (pages 26-35)
with illustrations by Phil Wadler and Guy Steele (including a couple of
the Crunchly cartoons). This appears to have been the File's first
paper publication.

A late version of jargon-1, expanded with commentary for the mass
market, was edited by Guy Steele into a book published in 1983 as `The
Hacker's Dictionary' (Harper & Row CN 1082, ISBN 0-06-091082-8). The
other jargon-1 editors (Raphael Finkel, Don Woods, and Mark Crispin)
contributed to this revision, as did Richard M. Stallman and Geoff
Goodfellow. This book (now out of print) is hereafter referred to as
`Steele-1983' and those six as the Steele-1983 coauthors.

Shortly after the publication of Steele-1983, the File effectively
stopped growing and changing. Originally, this was due to a desire to
freeze the file temporarily to facilitate the production of Steele-1983,
but external conditions caused the `temporary' freeze to become

The AI Lab culture had been hit hard in the late 1970s by funding cuts
and the resulting administrative decision to use vendor-supported
hardware and software instead of homebrew whenever possible. At MIT,
most AI work had turned to dedicated LISP Machines. At the same time,
the commercialization of AI technology lured some of the AI Lab's best
and brightest away to startups along the Route 128 strip in
Massachusetts and out West in Silicon Valley. The startups built LISP
machines for MIT; the central MIT-AI computer became a {TWENEX} system
rather than a host for the AI hackers' beloved {ITS}.

The Stanford AI Lab had effectively ceased to exist by 1980, although
the SAIL computer continued as a Computer Science Department resource
until 1991. Stanford became a major {TWENEX} site, at one point
operating more than a dozen TOPS-20 systems; but by the mid-1980s most
of the interesting software work was being done on the emerging BSD UNIX

In April 1983, the PDP-10-centered cultures that had nourished the File
were dealt a death-blow by the cancellation of the Jupiter project at
Digital Equipment Corporation. The File's compilers, already dispersed,
moved on to other things. Steele-1983 was partly a monument to what its
authors thought was a dying tradition; no one involved realized at the
time just how wide its influence was to be.

By the mid-1980s the File's content was dated, but the legend that had
grown up around it never quite died out. The book, and softcopies
obtained off the ARPANET, circulated even in cultures far removed from
MIT and Stanford; the content exerted a strong and continuing influence
on hackish language and humor. Even as the advent of the microcomputer
and other trends fueled a tremendous expansion of hackerdom, the File
(and related materials such as the AI Koans in Appendix A) came to be
seen as a sort of sacred epic, a hacker-culture Matter of Britain
chronicling the heroic exploits of the Knights of the Lab. The pace of
change in hackerdom at large accelerated tremendously --- but the Jargon
File, having passed from living document to icon, remained essentially
untouched for seven years.

This revision contains nearly the entire text of a late version of
jargon-1 (a few obsolete PDP-10-related entries were dropped after
careful consultation with the editors of Steele-1983). It merges in
about 80% of the Steele-1983 text, omitting some framing material and a
very few entries introduced in Steele-1983 that are now also obsolete.

This new version casts a wider net than the old Jargon File; its aim is
to cover not just AI or PDP-10 hacker culture but all the technical
computing cultures wherein the true hacker-nature is manifested. More
than half of the entries now derive from {USENET} and represent jargon
now current in the C and UNIX communities, but special efforts have been
made to collect jargon from other cultures including IBM PC programmers,
Amiga fans, Mac enthusiasts, and even the IBM mainframe world.

Eric S. Raymond maintains the new File with
assistance from Guy L. Steele Jr. ; these are the persons
primarily reflected in the File's editorial `we', though we take
pleasure in acknowledging the special contribution of the other
coauthors of Steele-1983. Please email all additions, corrections, and
correspondence relating to the Jargon File to
(UUCP-only sites without connections to an autorouting smart site can
use ...!uunet!snark!jargon).

(Warning: other email addresses appear in this file *but are not
guaranteed to be correct* later than the revision date on the first
line. *Don't* email us if an attempt to reach your idol bounces --- we
have no magic way of checking addresses or looking up people.)

The 2.9.6 version became the main text of `The New Hacker's Dictionary',
by Eric Raymond (ed.), MIT Press 1991, ISBN 0-262-68069-6. The
maintainers are committed to updating the on-line version of the Jargon
File through and beyond paper publication, and will continue to make it
available to archives and public-access sites as a trust of the hacker

Here is a chronology of the high points in the recent on-line revisions:

Version 2.1.1, Jun 12 1990: the Jargon File comes alive again after a
seven-year hiatus. Reorganization and massive additions were by Eric S.
Raymond, approved by Guy Steele. Many items of UNIX, C, USENET, and
microcomputer-based jargon were added at that time (as well as The
Untimely Demise of Mabel The Monkey).

Version 2.9.6, Aug 16 1991: corresponds to reproduction copy for book.
This version had 18952 lines, 148629 words, 975551 characters, and 1702

Version 2.9.8, Jan 01 1992: first public release since the book,
including over fifty new entries and numerous corrections/additions to
old ones. Packaged with version 1.1 of vh(1) hypertext reader. This
version had 19509 lines, 153108 words, 1006023 characters, and 1760

Version 2.9.9, Apr 01 1992: folded in XEROX PARC lexicon. This version
had 20298 lines, 159651 words, 1048909 characters, and 1821 entries.

Version 2.9.10, Jul 01 1992: lots of new historical material. This
version had 21349 lines, 168330 words, 1106991 characters, and 1891

Version numbering: Version numbers should be read as
major.minor.revision. Major version 1 is reserved for the `old' (ITS)
Jargon File, jargon-1. Major version 2 encompasses revisions by ESR
(Eric S. Raymond) with assistance from GLS (Guy L. Steele, Jr.).
Someday, the next maintainer will take over and spawn `version 3'.
Usually later versions will either completely supersede or incorporate
earlier versions, so there is generally no point in keeping old versions

Our thanks to the coauthors of Steele-1983 for oversight and assistance,
and to the hundreds of USENETters (too many to name here) who
contributed entries and encouragement. More thanks go to several of the
old-timers on the USENET group alt.folklore.computers, who contributed
much useful commentary and many corrections and valuable historical
perspective: Joseph M. Newcomer , Bernie Cosell
, Earl Boebert , and Joe Morris

We were fortunate enough to have the aid of some accomplished linguists.
David Stampe and Charles Hoequist
contributed valuable criticism; Joe Keane
helped us improve the pronunciation guides.

A few bits of this text quote previous works. We are indebted to Brian
A. LaMacchia for obtaining permission for us to
use material from the `TMRC Dictionary'; also, Don Libes
contributed some appropriate material from his
excellent book `Life With UNIX'. We thank Per Lindberg ,
author of the remarkable Swedish-language 'zine `Hackerbladet', for
bringing `FOO!' comics to our attention and smuggling one of the IBM
hacker underground's own baby jargon files out to us. Thanks also to
Maarten Litmaath for generously allowing the inclusion of the ASCII
pronunciation guide he formerly maintained. And our gratitude to Marc
Weiser of XEROX PARC for securing us
permission to quote from PARC's own jargon lexicon and shipping us a

It is a particular pleasure to acknowledge the major contributions of
Mark Brader to the final manuscript; he read and reread
many drafts, checked facts, caught typos, submitted an amazing number of
thoughtful comments, and did yeoman service in catching typos and minor
usage bobbles. Mr. Brader's rare combination of enthusiasm,
persistence, wide-ranging technical knowledge, and precisionism in
matters of language made his help invaluable, and the sustained volume
and quality of his input over many months only allowed him to escape
co-editor credit by the slimmest of margins.

Finally, George V. Reilly helped with TeX arcana and
painstakingly proofread some 2.7 and 2.8 versions; Steve Summit
contributed a number of excellent new entries and
many small improvements to 2.9.10; and Eric Tiedemann
contributed sage advice throughout on rhetoric, amphigory, and

:How Jargon Works:

:Jargon Construction:

There are some standard methods of jargonification that became
established quite early (i.e., before 1970), spreading from such sources
as the Tech Model Railroad Club, the PDP-1 SPACEWAR hackers, and John
McCarthy's original crew of LISPers. These include the following:

:Verb Doubling: --------------- A standard construction in English is to
double a verb and use it as an exclamation, such as "Bang, bang!" or
"Quack, quack!". Most of these are names for noises. Hackers also
double verbs as a concise, sometimes sarcastic comment on what the
implied subject does. Also, a doubled verb is often used to terminate a
conversation, in the process remarking on the current state of affairs
or what the speaker intends to do next. Typical examples involve {win},
{lose}, {hack}, {flame}, {barf}, {chomp}:

"The disk heads just crashed." "Lose, lose."
"Mostly he talked about his latest crock. Flame, flame."
"Boy, what a bagbiter! Chomp, chomp!"

Some verb-doubled constructions have special meanings not immediately
obvious from the verb. These have their own listings in the lexicon.

The USENET culture has one *tripling* convention unrelated to this; the
names of `joke' topic groups often have a tripled last element. The
first and paradigmatic example was alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork (a
"Muppet Show" reference); other classics include
alt.french.captain.borg.borg.borg, alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die,
sci.physics.edward.teller.boom.boom.boom, and

:Soundalike slang: ------------------ Hackers will often make rhymes or
puns in order to convert an ordinary word or phrase into something more
interesting. It is considered particularly {flavorful} if the phrase is
bent so as to include some other jargon word; thus the computer hobbyist
magazine `Dr. Dobb's Journal' is almost always referred to among hackers
as `Dr. Frob's Journal' or simply `Dr. Frob's'. Terms of this kind that
have been in fairly wide use include names for newspapers:

Boston Herald => Horrid (or Harried)
Boston Globe => Boston Glob
Houston (or San Francisco) Chronicle
=> the Crocknicle (or the Comical)
New York Times => New York Slime

However, terms like these are often made up on the spur of the moment.
Standard examples include:

Data General => Dirty Genitals
IBM 360 => IBM Three-Sickly
Government Property --- Do Not Duplicate (on keys)
=> Government Duplicity --- Do Not Propagate
for historical reasons => for hysterical raisins
Margaret Jacks Hall (the CS building at Stanford)
=> Marginal Hacks Hall

This is not really similar to the Cockney rhyming slang it has been
compared to in the past, because Cockney substitutions are opaque
whereas hacker punning jargon is intentionally transparent.

:The `-P' convention: --------------------- Turning a word into a
question by appending the syllable `P'; from the LISP convention of
appending the letter `P' to denote a predicate (a boolean-valued
function). The question should expect a yes/no answer, though it
needn't. (See {T} and {NIL}.)

At dinnertime:
Q: "Foodp?"
A: "Yeah, I'm pretty hungry." or "T!"

At any time:
Q: "State-of-the-world-P?"
A: (Straight) "I'm about to go home."
A: (Humorous) "Yes, the world has a state."

On the phone to Florida:
Q: "State-p Florida?"
A: "Been reading JARGON.TXT again, eh?"

[One of the best of these is a {Gosperism}. Once, when we were at a
Chinese restaurant, Bill Gosper wanted to know whether someone would
like to share with him a two-person-sized bowl of soup. His inquiry
was: "Split-p soup?" --- GLS]

:Overgeneralization: -------------------- A very conspicuous feature of
jargon is the frequency with which techspeak items such as names of
program tools, command language primitives, and even assembler opcodes
are applied to contexts outside of computing wherever hackers find
amusing analogies to them. Thus (to cite one of the best-known
examples) UNIX hackers often {grep} for things rather than searching for
them. Many of the lexicon entries are generalizations of exactly this

Hackers enjoy overgeneralization on the grammatical level as well. Many
hackers love to take various words and add the wrong endings to them to
make nouns and verbs, often by extending a standard rule to nonuniform
cases (or vice versa). For example, because

porous => porosity
generous => generosity

hackers happily generalize:

mysterious => mysteriosity
ferrous => ferrosity
obvious => obviosity
dubious => dubiosity

Also, note that all nouns can be verbed. E.g.: "All nouns can be
verbed", "I'll mouse it up", "Hang on while I clipboard it over", "I'm
grepping the files". English as a whole is already heading in this
direction (towards pure-positional grammar like Chinese); hackers are
simply a bit ahead of the curve.

However, note that hackers avoid the unimaginative verb-making
techniques characteristic of marketroids, bean-counters, and the
Pentagon; a hacker would never, for example, `productize', `prioritize',
or `securitize' things. Hackers have a strong aversion to bureaucratic
bafflegab and regard those who use it with contempt.

Similarly, all verbs can be nouned. This is only a slight
overgeneralization in modern English; in hackish, however, it is good
form to mark them in some standard nonstandard way. Thus:

win => winnitude, winnage
disgust => disgustitude
hack => hackification

Further, note the prevalence of certain kinds of nonstandard plural
forms. Some of these go back quite a ways; the TMRC Dictionary noted
that the defined plural of `caboose' is `cabeese', and includes an entry
which implies that the plural of `mouse' is {meeces}. On a similarly
Anglo-Saxon note, almost anything ending in `x' may form plurals in
`-xen' (see {VAXen} and {boxen} in the main text). Even words ending in
phonetic /k/ alone are sometimes treated this way; e.g., `soxen' for a
bunch of socks. Other funny plurals are `frobbotzim' for the plural of
`frobbozz' (see {frobnitz}) and `Unices' and `Twenices' (rather than
`Unixes' and `Twenexes'; see {UNIX}, {TWENEX} in main text). But note
that `Unixen' and `Twenexen' are never used; it has been suggested that
this is because `-ix' and `-ex' are Latin singular endings that attract
a Latinate plural. Finally, it has been suggested to general approval
that the plural of `mongoose' ought to be `polygoose'.

The pattern here, as with other hackish grammatical quirks, is
generalization of an inflectional rule that in English is either an
import or a fossil (such as the Hebrew plural ending `-im', or the
Anglo-Saxon plural suffix `-en') to cases where it isn't normally
considered to apply.

This is not `poor grammar', as hackers are generally quite well aware of
what they are doing when they distort the language. It is grammatical
creativity, a form of playfulness. It is done not to impress but to
amuse, and never at the expense of clarity.

:Spoken inarticulations: ------------------------ Words such as
`mumble', `sigh', and `groan' are spoken in places where their referent
might more naturally be used. It has been suggested that this usage
derives from the impossibility of representing such noises on a comm
link or in electronic mail (interestingly, the same sorts of
constructions have been showing up with increasing frequency in comic
strips). Another expression sometimes heard is "Complain!", meaning "I
have a complaint!"

:Anthromorphization: -------------------- Semantically, one rich source
of jargon constructions is the hackish tendency to anthropomorphize
hardware and software. This isn't done in a na"ive way; hackers don't
personalize their stuff in the sense of feeling empathy with it, nor do
they mystically believe that the things they work on every day are
`alive'. What *is* common is to hear hardware or software talked about
as though it has homunculi talking to each other inside it, with
intentions and desires. Thus, one hears "The protocol handler got
confused", or that programs "are trying" to do things, or one may say of
a routine that "its goal in life is to X". One even hears explanations
like "... and its poor little brain couldn't understand X, and it
died." Sometimes modelling things this way actually seems to make them
easier to understand, perhaps because it's instinctively natural to
think of anything with a really complex behavioral repertoire as `like a
person' rather than `like a thing'.

Of the six listed constructions, verb doubling, peculiar noun
formations, anthromorphization, and (especially) spoken inarticulations
have become quite general; but punning jargon is still largely confined
to MIT and other large universities, and the `-P' convention is found
only where LISPers flourish.

Finally, note that many words in hacker jargon have to be understood as
members of sets of comparatives. This is especially true of the
adjectives and nouns used to describe the beauty and functional quality
of code. Here is an approximately correct spectrum:

monstrosity brain-damage screw bug lose misfeature
crock kluge hack win feature elegance perfection

The last is spoken of as a mythical absolute, approximated but never
actually attained. Another similar scale is used for describing the
reliability of software:

broken flaky dodgy fragile brittle
solid robust bulletproof armor-plated

Note, however, that `dodgy' is primarily Commonwealth hackish (it is
rare in the U.S.) and may change places with `flaky' for some speakers.

Coinages for describing {lossage} seem to call forth the very finest in
hackish linguistic inventiveness; it has been truly said that hackers
have even more words for equipment failures than Yiddish has for
obnoxious people.

:Hacker Writing Style:

We've already seen that hackers often coin jargon by overgeneralizing
grammatical rules. This is one aspect of a more general fondness for
form-versus-content language jokes that shows up particularly in hackish
writing. One correspondent reports that he consistently misspells
`wrong' as `worng'. Others have been known to criticize glitches in
Jargon File drafts by observing (in the mode of Douglas Hofstadter)
"This sentence no verb", or "Bad speling", or "Incorrectspa cing."
Similarly, intentional spoonerisms are often made of phrases relating to
confusion or things that are confusing; `dain bramage' for `brain
damage' is perhaps the most common (similarly, a hacker would be likely
to write "Excuse me, I'm cixelsyd today", rather than "I'm dyslexic
today"). This sort of thing is quite common and is enjoyed by all

Hackers tend to use quotes as balanced delimiters like parentheses, much
to the dismay of American editors. Thus, if "Jim is going" is a phrase,
and so are "Bill runs" and "Spock groks", then hackers generally prefer
to write: "Jim is going", "Bill runs", and "Spock groks". This is
incorrect according to standard American usage (which would put the
continuation commas and the final period inside the string quotes);
however, it is counter-intuitive to hackers to mutilate literal strings
with characters that don't belong in them. Given the sorts of examples
that can come up in discussions of programming, American-style quoting
can even be grossly misleading. When communicating command lines or
small pieces of code, extra characters can be a real pain in the neck.

Consider, for example, a sentence in a {vi} tutorial that looks like this:

Then delete a line from the file by typing "dd".

Standard usage would make this

Then delete a line from the file by typing "dd."

but that would be very bad -- because the reader would be prone to type
the string d-d-dot, and it happens that in `vi(1)' dot repeats the last
command accepted. The net result would be to delete *two* lines!

The Jargon File follows hackish usage throughout.

Interestingly, a similar style is now preferred practice in Great
Britain, though the older style (which became established for
typographical reasons having to do with the aesthetics of comma and
quotes in typeset text) is still accepted there. `Hart's Rules' and the
`Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors' call the hacker-like style
`new' or `logical' quoting.

Another hacker quirk is a tendency to distinguish between `scare' quotes
and `speech' quotes; that is, to use British-style single quotes for
marking and reserve American-style double quotes for actual reports of
speech or text included from elsewhere. Interestingly, some authorities
describe this as correct general usage, but mainstream American English
has gone to using double-quotes indiscriminately enough that hacker
usage appears marked [and, in fact, I thought this was a personal quirk
of mine until I checked with USENET --- ESR]. One further permutation
that is definitely *not* standard is a hackish tendency to do marking
quotes by using apostrophes (single quotes) in pairs; that is, 'like
this'. This is modelled on string and character literal syntax in some
programming languages (reinforced by the fact that many character-only
terminals display the apostrophe in typewriter style, as a vertical
single quote).

One quirk that shows up frequently in the {email} style of UNIX hackers
in particular is a tendency for some things that are normally
all-lowercase (including usernames and the names of commands and C
routines) to remain uncapitalized even when they occur at the beginning
of sentences. It is clear that, for many hackers, the case of such
identifiers becomes a part of their internal representation (the
`spelling') and cannot be overridden without mental effort (an
appropriate reflex because UNIX and C both distinguish cases and
confusing them can lead to {lossage}). A way of escaping this dilemma
is simply to avoid using these constructions at the beginning of

There seems to be a meta-rule behind these nonstandard hackerisms to the
effect that precision of expression is more important than conformance
to traditional rules; where the latter create ambiguity or lose
information they can be discarded without a second thought. It is
notable in this respect that other hackish inventions (for example, in
vocabulary) also tend to carry very precise shades of meaning even when
constructed to appear slangy and loose. In fact, to a hacker, the
contrast between `loose' form and `tight' content in jargon is a
substantial part of its humor!

Hackers have also developed a number of punctuation and emphasis
conventions adapted to single-font all-ASCII communications links, and
these are occasionally carried over into written documents even when
normal means of font changes, underlining, and the like are available.

One of these is that TEXT IN ALL CAPS IS INTERPRETED AS `LOUD', and this
becomes such an ingrained synesthetic reflex that a person who goes to
caps-lock while in {talk mode} may be asked to "stop shouting, please,
you're hurting my ears!".

Also, it is common to use bracketing with unusual characters to signify
emphasis. The asterisk is most common, as in "What the *hell*?" even
though this interferes with the common use of the asterisk suffix as a
footnote mark. The underscore is also common, suggesting underlining
(this is particularly common with book titles; for example, "It is often
alleged that Joe Haldeman wrote _The_Forever_War_ as a rebuttal to
Robert Heinlein's earlier novel of the future military,
_Starship_Troopers_."). Other forms exemplified by "=hell=", "\hell/",
or "/hell/" are occasionally seen (it's claimed that in the last example
the first slash pushes the letters over to the right to make them
italic, and the second keeps them from falling over). Finally, words
may also be emphasized L I K E T H I S, or by a series of carets (^)
under them on the next line of the text.

There is a semantic difference between *emphasis like this* (which
emphasizes the phrase as a whole), and *emphasis* *like* *this* (which
suggests the writer speaking very slowly and distinctly, as if to a
very young child or a mentally impaired person). Bracketing a word with
the `*' character may also indicate that the writer wishes readers to
consider that an action is taking place or that a sound is being made.
Examples: *bang*, *hic*, *ring*, *grin*, *kick*, *stomp*, *mumble*.

There is also an accepted convention for `writing under erasure'; the

Be nice to this fool^H^H^H^Hgentleman, he's in from corporate HQ.

would be read as "Be nice to this fool, I mean this gentleman...". This
comes from the fact that the digraph ^H is often used as a print
representation for a backspace. It parallels (and may have been
influenced by) the ironic use of `slashouts' in science-fiction

In a formula, `*' signifies multiplication but two asterisks in a row
are a shorthand for exponentiation (this derives from FORTRAN). Thus,
one might write 2 ** 8 = 256.

Another notation for exponentiation one sees more frequently uses the
caret (^, ASCII 1011110); one might write instead `2^8 = 256'. This
goes all the way back to Algol-60, which used the archaic ASCII
`up-arrow' that later became the caret; this was picked up by Kemeny and
Kurtz's original BASIC, which in turn influenced the design of the
`bc(1)' and `dc(1)' UNIX tools, which have probably done most to
reinforce the convention on USENET. The notation is mildly confusing to
C programmers, because `^' means bitwise {XOR} in C. Despite this, it
was favored 3:1 over ** in a late-1990 snapshot of USENET. It is used
consistently in this text.

In on-line exchanges, hackers tend to use decimal forms or improper
fractions (`3.5' or `7/2') rather than `typewriter style' mixed
fractions (`3-1/2'). The major motive here is probably that the former
are more readable in a monospaced font, together with a desire to avoid
the risk that the latter might be read as `three minus one-half'. The
decimal form is definitely preferred for fractions with a terminating
decimal representation; there may be some cultural influence here from
the high status of scientific notation.

Another on-line convention, used especially for very large or very small
numbers, is taken from C (which derived it from FORTRAN). This is a
form of `scientific notation' using `e' to replace `*10^'; for example,
one year is about 3e7 seconds long.

The tilde (~) is commonly used in a quantifying sense of
`approximately'; that is, `~50' means `about fifty'.

On USENET and in the {MUD} world, common C boolean, logical, and
relational operators such as `|', `&', `||', `&&', `!', `==', `!=', `>',
and `<', `>=', and `=<' are often combined with English. The Pascal
not-equals, `<>', is also recognized, and occasionally one sees `/=' for
not-equals (from Ada, Common Lisp, and Fortran 90). The use of prefix
`!' as a loose synonym for `not-' or `no-' is particularly common; thus,
`!clue' is read `no-clue' or `clueless'.

A related practice borrows syntax from preferred programming languages
to express ideas in a natural-language text. For example, one might
see the following:

I resently had occasion to field-test the Snafu
Systems 2300E adaptive gonkulator. The price was
right, and the racing stripe on the case looked kind
of neat, but its performance left something to be

#ifdef FLAME
Hasn't anyone told those idiots that you can't get
decent bogon suppression with AFJ filters at today's
net speeds?
#endif /* FLAME */

I guess they figured the price premium for true
frame-based semantic analysis was too high.
Unfortunately, it's also the only workable approach.
I wouldn't recommend purchase of this product unless
you're on a *very* tight budget.

== Frank Foonly (Fubarco Systems)

In the above, the `#ifdef'/`#endif' pair is a conditional
compilation syntax from C; here, it implies that the text between
(which is a {flame}) should be evaluated only if you have turned on
(or defined on) the switch FLAME. The `#include' at the end is C
for "include standard disclaimer here"; the `standard disclaimer' is
understood to read, roughly, "These are my personal opinions and not
to be construed as the official position of my employer."

Another habit is that of using angle-bracket enclosure to genericize a
term; this derives from conventions used in {BNF}. Uses like the
following are common:

So this walks into a bar one day, and...

Hackers also mix letters and numbers more freely than in mainstream
usage. In particular, it is good hackish style to write a digit
sequence where you intend the reader to understand the text string that
names that number in English. So, hackers prefer to write `1970s'
rather than `nineteen-seventies' or `1970's' (the latter looks like a

It should also be noted that hackers exhibit much less reluctance to use
multiply nested parentheses than is normal in English. Part of this is
almost certainly due to influence from LISP (which uses deeply nested
parentheses (like this (see?)) in its syntax a lot), but it has also
been suggested that a more basic hacker trait of enjoying playing with
complexity and pushing systems to their limits is in operation.

One area where hackish conventions for on-line writing are still in some
flux is the marking of included material from earlier messages --- what
would be called `block quotations' in ordinary English. From the usual
typographic convention employed for these (smaller font at an extra
indent), there derived the notation of included text being indented by
one ASCII TAB (0001001) character, which under UNIX and many other
environments gives the appearance of an 8-space indent.

Early mail and netnews readers had no facility for including messages
this way, so people had to paste in copy manually. BSD `Mail(1)' was
the first message agent to support inclusion, and early USENETters
emulated its style. But the TAB character tended to push included text
too far to the right (especially in multiply nested inclusions), leading
to ugly wraparounds. After a brief period of confusion (during which an
inclusion leader consisting of three or four spaces became established
in EMACS and a few mailers), the use of leading `>' or `> ' became
standard, perhaps owing to its use in `ed(1)' to display tabs
(alternatively, it may derive from the `>' that some early UNIX mailers
used to quote lines starting with "From" in text, so they wouldn't look
like the beginnings of new message headers). Inclusions within
inclusions keep their `>' leaders, so the `nesting level' of a quotation
is visually apparent.

A few other idiosyncratic quoting styles survive because they are
automatically generated. One particularly ugly one looks like this:

/* Written hh:mm pm Mmm dd, yyyy by user@site in */
/* ---------- "Article subject, chopped to 35 ch" ---------- */

/* End of text from local:group */

It is generated by an elderly, variant news-reading system called
`notesfiles'. The overall trend, however, is definitely away from such

The practice of including text from the parent article when posting a
followup helped solve what had been a major nuisance on USENET: the fact
that articles do not arrive at different sites in the same order.
Careless posters used to post articles that would begin with, or even
consist entirely of, "No, that's wrong" or "I agree" or the like. It
was hard to see who was responding to what. Consequently, around 1984,
new news-posting software evolved a facility to automatically include
the text of a previous article, marked with "> " or whatever the poster
chose. The poster was expected to delete all but the relevant lines.
The result has been that, now, careless posters post articles containing
the *entire* text of a preceding article, *followed* only by "No, that's
wrong" or "I agree".

Many people feel that this cure is worse than the original disease, and
there soon appeared newsreader software designed to let the reader skip
over included text if desired. Today, some posting software rejects
articles containing too high a proportion of lines beginning with `>' --
but this too has led to undesirable workarounds, such as the deliberate
inclusion of zero-content filler lines which aren't quoted and thus pull
the message below the rejection threshold.

Because the default mailers supplied with UNIX and other operating
systems haven't evolved as quickly as human usage, the older conventions
using a leading TAB or three or four spaces are still alive; however,
>-inclusion is now clearly the prevalent form in both netnews and mail.

In 1991 practice is still evolving, and disputes over the `correct'
inclusion style occasionally lead to {holy wars}. One variant style
reported uses the citation character `|' in place of `>' for extended
quotations where original variations in indentation are being retained.
One also sees different styles of quoting a number of authors in the
same message: one (deprecated because it loses information) uses a
leader of `> ' for everyone, another (the most common) is `> > > > ', `>
> > ', etc. (or `>>>> ', `>>> ', etc., depending on line length and
nesting depth) reflecting the original order of messages, and yet
another is to use a different citation leader for each author, say `> ',
`: ', `| ', `} ' (preserving nesting so that the inclusion order of
messages is still apparent, or tagging the inclusions with authors'
names). Yet *another* style is to use each poster's initials (or login
name) as a citation leader for that poster. Occasionally one sees a `#
' leader used for quotations from authoritative sources such as
standards documents; the intended allusion is to the root prompt (the
special UNIX command prompt issued when one is running as the privileged

Finally, it is worth mentioning that many studies of on-line
communication have shown that electronic links have a de-inhibiting
effect on people. Deprived of the body-language cues through which
emotional state is expressed, people tend to forget everything about
other parties except what is presented over that ASCII link. This has
both good and bad effects. The good one is that it encourages honesty
and tends to break down hierarchical authority relationships; the bad is
that it may encourage depersonalization and gratuitous rudeness.
Perhaps in response to this, experienced netters often display a sort of
conscious formal politesse in their writing that has passed out of
fashion in other spoken and written media (for example, the phrase "Well
said, sir!" is not uncommon).

Many introverted hackers who are next to inarticulate in person
communicate with considerable fluency over the net, perhaps precisely
because they can forget on an unconscious level that they are dealing
with people and thus don't feel stressed and anxious as they would face
to face.

Though it is considered gauche to publicly criticize posters for poor
spelling or grammar, the network places a premium on literacy and
clarity of expression. It may well be that future historians of
literature will see in it a revival of the great tradition of personal
letters as art.

:Hacker Speech Style:

Hackish speech generally features extremely precise diction, careful
word choice, a relatively large working vocabulary, and relatively
little use of contractions or street slang. Dry humor, irony, puns, and
a mildly flippant attitude are highly valued --- but an underlying
seriousness and intelligence are essential. One should use just enough
jargon to communicate precisely and identify oneself as a member of the
culture; overuse of jargon or a breathless, excessively gung-ho attitude
is considered tacky and the mark of a loser.

This speech style is a variety of the precisionist English normally
spoken by scientists, design engineers, and academics in technical
fields. In contrast with the methods of jargon construction, it is
fairly constant throughout hackerdom.

It has been observed that many hackers are confused by negative
questions --- or, at least, that the people to whom they are talking are
often confused by the sense of their answers. The problem is that they
have done so much programming that distinguishes between

if (going) {


if (!going) {

that when they parse the question "Aren't you going?" it seems to be
asking the opposite question from "Are you going?", and so merits an
answer in the opposite sense. This confuses English-speaking
non-hackers because they were taught to answer as though the negative
part weren't there. In some other languages (including Russian,
Chinese, and Japanese) the hackish interpretation is standard and the
problem wouldn't arise. Hackers often find themselves wishing for a
word like French `si' or German `doch' with which one could
unambiguously answer `yes' to a negative question.

For similar reasons, English-speaking hackers almost never use double
negatives, even if they live in a region where colloquial usage allows
them. The thought of uttering something that logically ought to be an
affirmative knowing it will be misparsed as a negative tends to disturb

Here's a related quirk. A non-hacker who is indelicate enough to ask
a question like "So, are you working on finding that bug *now*
or leaving it until later?" is likely to get the perfectly correct
answer "Yes!" (that is, "Yes, I'm doing it either now or later, and
you didn't ask which!").

:International Style:

Although the Jargon File remains primarily a lexicon of hacker usage in
American English, we have made some effort to get input from abroad.
Though the hacker-speak of other languages often uses translations of
jargon from English (often as transmitted to them by earlier Jargon File
versions!), the local variations are interesting, and knowledge of them
may be of some use to travelling hackers.

There are some references herein to `Commonwealth English'. These are
intended to describe some variations in hacker usage as reported in the
English spoken in Great Britain and the Commonwealth (Canada, Australia,
India, etc. --- though Canada is heavily influenced by American usage).
There is also an entry on {{Commonwealth Hackish}} reporting some
general phonetic and vocabulary differences from U.S. hackish.

Hackers in Western Europe and (especially) Scandinavia are reported to
often use a mixture of English and their native languages for technical
conversation. Occasionally they develop idioms in their English usage
that are influenced by their native-language styles. Some of these are
reported here.

A few notes on hackish usages in Russian have been added where they are
parallel with English idioms and thus comprehensible to

:How to Use the Lexicon:

:Pronunciation Guide:

Pronunciation keys are provided in the jargon listings for all entries
that are neither dictionary words pronounced as in standard English nor
obvious compounds thereof. Slashes bracket phonetic pronunciations,
which are to be interpreted using the following conventions:

1. Syllables are hyphen-separated, except that an accent or back-accent
follows each accented syllable (the back-accent marks a secondary
accent in some words of four or more syllables).

2. Consonants are pronounced as in American English. The letter `g' is
always hard (as in "got" rather than "giant"); `ch' is soft
("church" rather than "chemist"). The letter `j' is the sound
that occurs twice in "judge". The letter `s' is always as in
"pass", never a z sound. The digraph `kh' is the guttural of
"loch" or "l'chaim".

3. Uppercase letters are pronounced as their English letter names; thus
(for example) /H-L-L/ is equivalent to /aitch el el/. /Z/ may
be pronounced /zee/ or /zed/ depending on your local dialect.

4. Vowels are represented as follows:

back, that
far, mark
flaw, caught
bake, rain
less, men
easy, ski
their, software
trip, hit
life, sky
father, palm
flow, sew
loot, through
more, door
out, how
boy, coin
but, some
put, foot
yet, young
few, chew
/oo/ with optional fronting as in `news' (/nooz/ or /nyooz/)

A /*/ is used for the `schwa' sound of unstressed or occluded vowels
(the one that is often written with an upside-down `e'). The schwa
vowel is omitted in syllables containing vocalic r, l, m or n; that is,
`kitten' and `color' would be rendered /kit'n/ and /kuhl'r/, not
/kit'*n/ and /kuhl'*r/.

Entries with a pronunciation of `//' are written-only usages. (No, UNIX
weenies, this does *not* mean `pronounce like previous pronunciation'!)

:Other Lexicon Conventions:

Entries are sorted in case-blind ASCII collation order (rather than the
letter-by-letter order ignoring interword spacing common in mainstream
dictionaries), except that all entries beginning with nonalphabetic
characters are sorted after Z. The case-blindness is a feature, not a

The beginning of each entry is marked by a colon (`:') at the
left margin. This convention helps out tools like hypertext browsers
that benefit from knowing where entry boundaries are, but aren't as
context-sensitive as humans.

In pure ASCII renderings of the Jargon File, you will see {} used to
bracket words which themselves have entries in the File. This isn't
done all the time for every such word, but it is done everywhere that a
reminder seems useful that the term has a jargon meaning and one might
wish to refer to its entry.

In this all-ASCII version, headwords for topic entries are distinguished
from those for ordinary entries by being followed by "::" rather than
":"; similarly, references are surrounded by "{{" and "}}" rather than
"{" and "}".

Defining instances of terms and phrases appear in `slanted type'. A
defining instance is one which occurs near to or as part of an
explanation of it.

Prefix * is used as linguists do; to mark examples of incorrect usage.

We follow the `logical' quoting convention described in the Writing
Style section above. In addition, we reserve double quotes for actual
excerpts of text or (sometimes invented) speech. Scare quotes (which
mark a word being used in a nonstandard way), and philosopher's quotes
(which turn an utterance into the string of letters or words that name
it) are both rendered with single quotes.

References such as `malloc(3)' and `patch(1)' are to UNIX facilities
(some of which, such as `patch(1)', are actually freeware distributed
over USENET). The UNIX manuals use `foo(n)' to refer to item foo in
section (n) of the manual, where n=1 is utilities, n=2 is system calls,
n=3 is C library routines, n=6 is games, and n=8 (where present) is
system administration utilities. Sections 4, 5, and 7 of the manuals
have changed roles frequently and in any case are not referred to in any
of the entries.

Various abbreviations used frequently in the lexicon are summarized here:

synonym (or synonymous with)
verb (may be transitive or intransitive)
intransitive verb
transitive verb

Where alternate spellings or pronunciations are given, alt.
separates two possibilities with nearly equal distribution, while
var. prefixes one that is markedly less common than the primary.

Where a term can be attributed to a particular subculture or is known
to have originated there, we have tried to so indicate. Here is a
list of abbreviations used in etymologies:

University of California at Berkeley
the university in England (*not* the city in Massachusetts where
MIT happens to be located!)
Bolt, Beranek & Newman
Carnegie-Mellon University
Commodore Business Machines
The Digital Equipment Corporation
The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group
See the {Fidonet} entry
International Business Machines
Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI Lab
culture of roughly 1971 to 1983 and its feeder groups, including the
Tech Model Railroad Club
Naval Research Laboratories
New York University
The Oxford English Dictionary
Purdue University
Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (at Stanford
From Syst`eme International, the name for the standard
conventions of metric nomenclature used in the sciences
Stanford University
Sun Microsystems
Some MITisms go back as far as the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) at
MIT c. 1960. Material marked TMRC is from `An Abridged Dictionary
of the TMRC Language', originally compiled by Pete Samson in 1959
University of California at Los Angeles
the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)
See the {USENET} entry
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of
PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s
XEROX's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering research in
user interface design and networking
Yale University

Some other etymology abbreviations such as {UNIX} and {PDP-10}
refer to technical cultures surrounding specific operating systems,
processors, or other environments. The fact that a term is labelled
with any one of these abbreviations does not necessarily mean its use
is confined to that culture. In particular, many terms labelled `MIT'
and `Stanford' are in quite general use. We have tried to give some
indication of the distribution of speakers in the usage notes;
however, a number of factors mentioned in the introduction conspire to
make these indications less definite than might be desirable.

A few new definitions attached to entries are marked [proposed].
These are usually generalizations suggested by editors or USENET
respondents in the process of commenting on previous definitions of
those entries. These are *not* represented as established

:Format For New Entries:

All contributions and suggestions about the Jargon File will be
considered donations to be placed in the public domain as part of this
File, and may be used in subsequent paper editions. Submissions may
be edited for accuracy, clarity and concision.

Try to conform to the format already being used --- head-words
separated from text by a colon (double colon for topic entries),
cross-references in curly brackets (doubled for topic entries),
pronunciations in slashes, etymologies in square brackets,
single-space after definition numbers and word classes, etc. Stick to
the standard ASCII character set (7-bit printable, no high-half
characters or [nt]roff/TeX/Scribe escapes), as one of the versions
generated from the master file is an info document that has to be
viewable on a character tty.

We are looking to expand the file's range of technical specialties covered.
There are doubtless rich veins of jargon yet untapped in the scientific
computing, graphics, and networking hacker communities; also in numerical
analysis, computer architectures and VLSI design, language design, and many
other related fields. Send us your jargon!

We are *not* interested in straight technical terms explained by
textbooks or technical dictionaries unless an entry illuminates
`underground' meanings or aspects not covered by official histories.
We are also not interested in `joke' entries --- there is a lot of
humor in the file but it must flow naturally out of the explanations
of what hackers do and how they think.

It is OK to submit items of jargon you have originated if they have spread
to the point of being used by people who are not personally acquainted with
you. We prefer items to be attested by independent submission from two
different sites.

The Jargon File will be regularly maintained and re-posted from now on
and will include a version number. Read it, pass it around,
contribute --- this is *your* monument!

The Jargon Lexicon

= A =

:abbrev: /*-breev'/, /*-brev'/ n. Common abbreviation for

:ABEND: [ABnormal END] /ah'bend/, /*-bend'/ n. Abnormal
termination (of software); {crash}; {lossage}. Derives from an
error message on the IBM 360; used jokingly by hackers but
seriously mainly by {code grinder}s. Usually capitalized, but may
appear as `abend'. Hackers will try to persuade you that ABEND is
called `abend' because it is what system operators do to the
machine late on Friday when they want to call it a day, and hence
is from the German `Abend' = `Evening'.

:accumulator: n. 1. Archaic term for a register. On-line use of it
as a synonym for `register' is a fairly reliable indication that
the user has been around for quite a while and/or that the
architecture under discussion is quite old. The term in full is
almost never used of microprocessor registers, for example, though
symbolic names for arithmetic registers beginning in `A' derive
from historical use of the term `accumulator' (and not, actually,
from `arithmetic'). Confusingly, though, an `A' register name
prefix may also stand for `address', as for example on the
Motorola 680x0 family. 2. A register being used for arithmetic or
logic (as opposed to addressing or a loop index), especially one
being used to accumulate a sum or count of many items. This use is
in context of a particular routine or stretch of code. "The
FOOBAZ routine uses A3 as an accumulator." 3. One's in-basket
(esp. among old-timers who might use sense 1). "You want this
reviewed? Sure, just put it in the accumulator." (See {stack}.)

:ACK: /ak/ interj. 1. [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0000110]
Acknowledge. Used to register one's presence (compare mainstream
*Yo!*). An appropriate response to {ping} or {ENQ}.
2. [from the comic strip "Bloom County"] An exclamation of
surprised disgust, esp. in "Ack pffft!" Semi-humorous.
Generally this sense is not spelled in caps (ACK) and is
distinguished by a following exclamation point. 3. Used to
politely interrupt someone to tell them you understand their point
(see {NAK}). Thus, for example, you might cut off an overly
long explanation with "Ack. Ack. Ack. I get it now".

There is also a usage "ACK?" (from sense 1) meaning "Are you
there?", often used in email when earlier mail has produced no
reply, or during a lull in {talk mode} to see if the person has
gone away (the standard humorous response is of course {NAK}
(sense 2), i.e., "I'm not here").

:ad-hockery: /ad-hok'*r-ee/ [Purdue] n. 1. Gratuitous assumptions
made inside certain programs, esp. expert systems, which lead to
the appearance of semi-intelligent behavior but are in fact
entirely arbitrary. For example, fuzzy-matching input tokens that
might be typing errors against a symbol table can make it look as
though a program knows how to spell. 2. Special-case code to cope
with some awkward input that would otherwise cause a program to
{choke}, presuming normal inputs are dealt with in some cleaner
and more regular way. Also called `ad-hackery', `ad-hocity'
(/ad-hos'*-tee/), `ad-crockery'. See also {ELIZA effect}.

:Ada:: n. A {{Pascal}}-descended language that has been made
mandatory for Department of Defense software projects by the
Pentagon. Hackers are nearly unanimous in observing that,
technically, it is precisely what one might expect given that kind
of endorsement by fiat; designed by committee, crockish, difficult
to use, and overall a disastrous, multi-billion-dollar boondoggle
(one common description is "The PL/I of the 1980s"). Hackers
find Ada's exception-handling and inter-process communication
features particularly hilarious. Ada Lovelace (the daughter of
Lord Byron who became the world's first programmer while
cooperating with Charles Babbage on the design of his mechanical
computing engines in the mid-1800s) would almost certainly blanch
at the use to which her name has latterly been put; the kindest
thing that has been said about it is that there is probably a good
small language screaming to get out from inside its vast,
{elephantine} bulk.

:adger: /aj'r/ [UCLA] vt. To make a bonehead move with consequences
that could have been foreseen with a slight amount of mental
effort. E.g., "He started removing files and promptly adgered the
whole project". Compare {dumbass attack}.

:admin: /ad-min'/ n. Short for `administrator'; very commonly
used in speech or on-line to refer to the systems person in charge
on a computer. Common constructions on this include `sysadmin'
and `site admin' (emphasizing the administrator's role as a site
contact for email and news) or `newsadmin' (focusing specifically
on news). Compare {postmaster}, {sysop}, {system

:ADVENT: /ad'vent/ n. The prototypical computer adventure game, first
implemented on the {PDP-10} by Will Crowther as an attempt at
computer-refereed fantasy gaming, and expanded into a
puzzle-oriented game by Don Woods. Now better known as Adventure,
but the {{TOPS-10}} operating system permitted only 6-letter
filenames. See also {vadding}.

This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style now expected in
text adventure games, and popularized several tag lines that have
become fixtures of hacker-speak: "A huge green fierce snake bars
the way!" "I see no X here" (for some noun X). "You are in a
maze of twisty little passages, all alike." "You are in a little
maze of twisty passages, all different." The `magic words'
{xyzzy} and {plugh} also derive from this game.

Crowther, by the way, participated in the exploration of the
Mammoth & Flint Ridge cave system; it actually *has* a
`Colossal Cave' and a `Bedquilt' as in the game, and the `Y2' that
also turns up is cavers' jargon for a map reference to a secondary

:AFJ: n. Written-only abbreviation for "April Fool's Joke".
Elaborate April Fool's hoaxes are a hallowed tradition on USENET
and Internet; see {kremvax} for an example. In fact, April
Fool's Day is the *only* seasonal holiday marked by customary
observances on the hacker networks.

:AI-complete: /A-I k*m-pleet'/ [MIT, Stanford: by analogy with
`NP-complete' (see {NP-})] adj. Used to describe problems or
subproblems in AI, to indicate that the solution presupposes a
solution to the `strong AI problem' (that is, the synthesis of a
human-level intelligence). A problem that is AI-complete is, in
other words, just too hard.

Examples of AI-complete problems are `The Vision Problem'
(building a system that can see as well as a human) and `The
Natural Language Problem' (building a system that can understand
and speak a natural language as well as a human). These may appear
to be modular, but all attempts so far (1991) to solve them have
foundered on the amount of context information and `intelligence'
they seem to require. See also {gedanken}.

:AI koans: /A-I koh'anz/ pl.n. A series of pastiches of Zen
teaching riddles created by Danny Hillis at the MIT AI Lab around
various major figures of the Lab's culture (several are included
under "{A Selection of AI Koans}" in {appendix
A}). See also {ha ha only serious}, {mu}, and {{Humor,

:AIDS: /aydz/ n. Short for A* Infected Disk Syndrome (`A*' is a
{glob} pattern that matches, but is not limited to, Apple),
this condition is quite often the result of practicing unsafe
{SEX}. See {virus}, {worm}, {Trojan horse},

:AIDX: n. /aydkz/ n. Derogatory term for IBM's perverted version
of UNIX, AIX, especially for the AIX 3.? used in the IBM RS/6000
series. A victim of the dreaded "hybridism" disease, this
attempt to combine the two main currents of the UNIX stream
({BSD} and {USG UNIX}) became a {monstrosity} to haunt
system administrators' dreams. For example, if new accounts are
created while many users are logged on, the load average jumps
quickly over 20 due to silly implementation of the user databases.
For a quite similar disease, compare {HP-SUX}. Also, compare
{terminak}, {Macintrash} {Nominal Semidestructor},
{Open DeathTrap}, {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}.

:airplane rule: n. "Complexity increases the possibility of
failure; a twin-engine airplane has twice as many engine problems
as a single-engine airplane." By analogy, in both software and
electronics, the rule that simplicity increases robustness (see
also {KISS Principle}). It is correspondingly argued that the
right way to build reliable systems is to put all your eggs in one
basket, after making sure that you've built a really *good*

:aliasing bug: n. A class of subtle programming errors that can
arise in code that does dynamic allocation, esp. via
`malloc(3)' or equivalent. If more than one pointer addresses
(`aliases for') a given hunk of storage, it may happen that the
storage is freed or reallocated (and thus moved) through one alias
and then referenced through another, which may lead to subtle (and
possibly intermittent) lossage depending on the state and the
allocation history of the malloc {arena}. Avoidable by use of
allocation strategies that never alias allocated core. Also
avoidable by use of higher-level languages, such as {LISP},
which employ a garbage collector (see {GC}). Also called a
{stale pointer bug}. See also {precedence lossage},
{smash the stack}, {fandango on core}, {memory leak},
{memory smash}, {overrun screw}, {spam}.

Historical note: Though this term is nowadays associated with
C programming, it was already in use in a very similar sense in the
Algol-60 and FORTRAN communities in the 1960s.

:all-elbows: adj. Of a TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) IBM PC
program, such as the N pop-up calendar and calculator utilities
that circulate on {BBS} systems: unsociable. Used to describe a
program that rudely steals the resources that it needs without
considering that other TSRs may also be resident. One particularly
common form of rudeness is lock-up due to programs fighting over
the keyboard interrupt. See {rude}, also {mess-dos}.

:alpha particles: n. See {bit rot}.

:alt: /awlt/ 1. n. The alt shift key on an IBM PC or {clone}.
2. n. The `clover' or `Command' key on a Macintosh; use of this
term usually reveals that the speaker hacked PCs before coming to
the Mac (see also {feature key}). Some Mac hackers,
confusingly, reserve `alt' for the Option key. 3. n.obs. [PDP-10;
often capitalized to ALT] Alternate name for the ASCII
ESC character (ASCII 0011011), after the keycap labeling on some
older terminals. Also `altmode' (/awlt'mohd/). This character
was almost never pronounced `escape' on an ITS system, in
{TECO}, or under TOPS-10 --- always alt, as in "Type alt alt to
end a TECO command" or "alt-U onto the system" (for "log onto
the [ITS] system"). This was probably because alt is more
convenient to say than `escape', especially when followed by
another alt or a character (or another alt *and* a character,
for that matter).

:alt bit: /awlt bit/ [from alternate] adj. See {meta bit}.

:altmode: n. Syn. {alt} sense 3.

:Aluminum Book: [MIT] n. `Common LISP: The Language', by
Guy L. Steele Jr. (Digital Press, first edition 1984, second
edition 1990). Note that due to a technical screwup some printings
of the second edition are actually of a color the author describes
succinctly as "yucky green". See also {{book titles}}.

:amoeba: n. Humorous term for the Commodore Amiga personal computer.

:amp off: [Purdue] vt. To run in {background}. From the UNIX shell `&'

:amper: n. Common abbreviation for the name of the ampersand (`&',
ASCII 0100110) character. See {{ASCII}} for other synonyms.

:angle brackets: n. Either of the characters `<' (ASCII
0111100) and `>' (ASCII 0111110) (ASCII less-than or
greater-than signs). The {Real World} angle brackets used by
typographers are actually taller than a less-than or greater-than
See {broket}, {{ASCII}}.

:angry fruit salad: n. A bad visual-interface design that uses too
many colors. This derives, of course, from the bizarre day-glo
colors found in canned fruit salad. Too often one sees similar
effects from interface designers using color window systems such as
{X}; there is a tendency to create displays that are flashy and
attention-getting but uncomfortable for long-term use.

:annoybot: /*-noy-bot/ [IRC] n. See {robot}.

:AOS: 1. /aws/ (East Coast), /ay-os/ (West Coast) [based on a
PDP-10 increment instruction] vt.,obs. To increase the amount of
something. "AOS the campfire." Usage: considered silly, and now
obsolete. Now largely supplanted by {bump}. See {SOS}. 2. A
{{Multics}}-derived OS supported at one time by Data General. This
was pronounced /A-O-S/ or /A-os/. A spoof of the standard
AOS system administrator's manual (`How to Load and Generate
your AOS System') was created, issued a part number, and circulated
as photocopy folklore. It was called `How to Goad and
Levitate your CHAOS System'. 3. Algebraic Operating System, in
reference to those calculators which use infix instead of postfix
(reverse Polish) notation.

Historical note: AOS in sense 1 was the name of a {PDP-10}
instruction that took any memory location in the computer and added
1 to it; AOS meant `Add One and do not Skip'. Why, you may ask,
does the `S' stand for `do not Skip' rather than for `Skip'? Ah,
here was a beloved piece of PDP-10 folklore. There were eight such
instructions: AOSE added 1 and then skipped the next instruction
if the result was Equal to zero; AOSG added 1 and then skipped if
the result was Greater than 0; AOSN added 1 and then skipped
if the result was Not 0; AOSA added 1 and then skipped Always;
and so on. Just plain AOS didn't say when to skip, so it never

For similar reasons, AOJ meant `Add One and do not Jump'. Even
more bizarre, SKIP meant `do not SKIP'! If you wanted to skip the
next instruction, you had to say `SKIPA'. Likewise, JUMP meant
`do not JUMP'; the unconditional form was JUMPA. However, hackers
never did this. By some quirk of the 10's design, the {JRST}
(Jump and ReSTore flag with no flag specified) was actually faster
and so was invariably used. Such were the perverse mysteries of
assembler programming.

:app: /ap/ n. Short for `application program', as opposed to a
systems program. What systems vendors are forever chasing
developers to create for their environments so they can sell more
boxes. Hackers tend not to think of the things they themselves run
as apps; thus, in hacker parlance the term excludes compilers,
program editors, games, and messaging systems, though a user would
consider all those to be apps. Oppose {tool}, {operating

:arc: [primarily MSDOS] vt. To create a compressed {archive} from a
group of files using SEA ARC, PKWare PKARC, or a compatible
program. Rapidly becoming obsolete as the ARC compression method
is falling into disuse, having been replaced by newer compression
techniques. See {tar and feather}, {zip}.

:arc wars: [primarily MSDOS] n. {holy wars} over which archiving
program one should use. The first arc war was sparked when System
Enhancement Associates (SEA) sued PKWare for copyright and
trademark infringement on its ARC program. PKWare's PKARC
outperformed ARC on both compression and speed while largely
retaining compatibility (it introduced a new compression type that
could be disabled for backward-compatibility). PKWare settled out
of court to avoid enormous legal costs (both SEA and PKWare are
small companies); as part of the settlement, the name of PKARC was
changed to PKPAK. The public backlash against SEA for bringing
suit helped to hasten the demise of ARC as a standard when PKWare
and others introduced new, incompatible archivers with better
compression algorithms.

:archive: n. 1. A collection of several files bundled into one file
by a program such as `ar(1)', `tar(1)', `cpio(1)',
or {arc} for shipment or archiving (sense 2). See also {tar
and feather}. 2. A collection of files or archives (sense 1) made
available from an `archive site' via {FTP} or an email server.

:arena: [UNIX] n. The area of memory attached to a process by
`brk(2)' and `sbrk(2)' and used by `malloc(3)' as
dynamic storage. So named from a semi-mythical `malloc:
corrupt arena' message supposedly emitted when some early versions
became terminally confused. See {overrun screw}, {aliasing
bug}, {memory leak}, {memory smash}, {smash the stack}.

:arg: /arg/ n. Abbreviation for `argument' (to a function),
used so often as to have become a new word (like `piano' from
`pianoforte'). "The sine function takes 1 arg, but the
arc-tangent function can take either 1 or 2 args." Compare
{param}, {parm}, {var}.

:armor-plated: n. Syn. for {bulletproof}.

:asbestos: adj. Used as a modifier to anything intended to protect
one from {flame}s. Important cases of this include {asbestos
longjohns} and {asbestos cork award}, but it is used more

:asbestos cork award: n. Once, long ago at MIT, there was a {flamer}
so consistently obnoxious that another hacker designed, had made,
and distributed posters announcing that said flamer had been
nominated for the `asbestos cork award'. Persons in any doubt as
to the intended application of the cork should consult the
etymology under {flame}. Since then, it is agreed that only a
select few have risen to the heights of bombast required to earn
this dubious dignity --- but there is no agreement on *which*

:asbestos longjohns: n. Notional garments often donned by {USENET}
posters just before emitting a remark they expect will elicit
{flamage}. This is the most common of the {asbestos} coinages.
Also `asbestos underwear', `asbestos overcoat', etc.

:ASCII:: [American Standard Code for Information Interchange]
/as'kee/ n. The predominant character set encoding of present-day
computers. Uses 7 bits for each character, whereas most earlier
codes (including an early version of ASCII) used fewer. This
change allowed the inclusion of lowercase letters --- a major
{win} --- but it did not provide for accented letters or any
other letterforms not used in English (such as the German sharp-S
and the ae-ligature
which is a letter in, for example, Norwegian). It could be worse,
though. It could be much worse. See {{EBCDIC}} to understand how.

Computers are much pickier and less flexible about spelling than
humans; thus, hackers need to be very precise when talking about
characters, and have developed a considerable amount of verbal
shorthand for them. Every character has one or more names --- some
formal, some concise, some silly. Common jargon names for ASCII
characters are collected here. See also individual entries for
{bang}, {excl}, {open}, {ques}, {semi}, {shriek},
{splat}, {twiddle}, and {Yu-Shiang Whole Fish}.

This list derives from revision 2.3 of the USENET ASCII
pronunciation guide. Single characters are listed in ASCII order;
character pairs are sorted in by first member. For each character,
common names are given in rough order of popularity, followed by
names that are reported but rarely seen; official ANSI/CCITT names
are surrounded by brokets: <>. Square brackets mark the
particularly silly names introduced by {INTERCAL}. Ordinary
parentheticals provide some usage information.

Common: {bang}; pling; excl; shriek; .
Rare: factorial; exclam; smash; cuss; boing; yell; wow; hey;
wham; eureka; [spark-spot]; soldier.

Common: double quote; quote. Rare: literal mark;
double-glitch; ; ; dirk;
[rabbit-ears]; double prime.

Common: ; pound; pound sign; hash; sharp;
{crunch}; hex; [mesh]; octothorpe. Rare: flash; crosshatch;
grid; pig-pen; tictactoe; scratchmark; thud; thump; {splat}.

Common: dollar; . Rare: currency symbol; buck;
cash; string (from BASIC); escape (when used as the echo of
ASCII ESC); ding; cache; [big money].

Common: percent; ; mod; grapes. Rare:

Common: ; amper; and. Rare: address (from C);
reference (from C++); andpersand; bitand; background (from
`sh(1)'); pretzel; amp. [INTERCAL called this `ampersand';
what could be sillier?]

Common: single quote; quote; . Rare: prime;
glitch; tick; irk; pop; [spark]; mark>; .

Common: left/right paren; left/right parenthesis; left/right;
paren/thesis; open/close paren; open/close; open/close
parenthesis; left/right banana. Rare: so/al-ready;
lparen/rparen; ; open/close round
bracket, parenthisey/unparenthisey; [wax/wane]; left/right

Common: star; [{splat}]; . Rare: wildcard; gear;
dingle; mult; spider; aster; times; twinkle; glob (see
{glob}); {Nathan Hale}.

Common: ; add. Rare: cross; [intersection].

Common: . Rare: ; [tail].

Common: dash; ; . Rare: [worm]; option; dak;

Common: dot; point; ; . Rare: radix
point; full stop; [spot].

Common: slash; stroke; ; forward slash. Rare:
diagonal; solidus; over; slak; virgule; [slat].

Common: . Rare: dots; [two-spot].

Common: ; semi. Rare: weenie; [hybrid],

Common: ; left/right angle bracket;
bra/ket; left/right broket. Rare: from/{into, towards}; read
from/write to; suck/blow; comes-from/gozinta; in/out;
crunch/zap (all from UNIX); [angle/right angle].

Common: ; gets; takes. Rare: quadrathorpe;

Common: query; ; {ques}. Rare: whatmark;
[what]; wildchar; huh; hook; buttonhook; hunchback.

Common: at sign; at; strudel. Rare: each; vortex; whorl;
[whirlpool]; cyclone; snail; ape; cat; rose; cabbage;

Rare: [book].

Common: left/right square bracket; ;
bracket/unbracket; left/right bracket. Rare: square/unsquare;
[U turn/U turn back].

Common: backslash; escape (from C/UNIX); reverse slash; slosh;
backslant; backwhack. Rare: bash; ; reversed
virgule; [backslat].

Common: hat; control; uparrow; caret; . Rare:
chevron; [shark (or shark-fin)]; to the (`to the power of');
fang; pointer (in Pascal).

Common: ; underscore; underbar; under. Rare:
score; backarrow; skid; [flatworm].

Common: backquote; left quote; left single quote; open quote;
; grave. Rare: backprime; [backspark];
unapostrophe; birk; blugle; back tick; back glitch; push;
; quasiquote.

Common: open/close brace; left/right brace; left/right
squiggly; left/right squiggly bracket/brace; left/right curly
bracket/brace; . Rare: brace/unbrace;
curly/uncurly; leftit/rytit; left/right squirrelly;

Common: bar; or; or-bar; v-bar; pipe; vertical bar. Rare:
; gozinta; thru; pipesinta (last three from
UNIX); [spike].

Common: ; squiggle; {twiddle}; not. Rare: approx;
wiggle; swung dash; enyay; [sqiggle (sic)].

The pronunciation of `#' as `pound' is common in the U.S.
but a bad idea; {{Commonwealth Hackish}} has its own, rather more
apposite use of `pound sign' (confusingly, on British keyboards
the pound graphic
happens to replace `#'; thus Britishers sometimes
call `#' on a U.S.-ASCII keyboard `pound', compounding the
American error). The U.S. usage derives from an old-fashioned
commercial practice of using a `#' suffix to tag pound weights
on bills of lading. The character is usually pronounced `hash'
outside the U.S.

The `uparrow' name for circumflex and `leftarrow' name for
underline are historical relics from archaic ASCII (the 1963
version), which had these graphics in those character positions
rather than the modern punctuation characters.

The `swung dash' or `approximation' sign is not quite the same
as tilde in typeset material
but the ASCII tilde serves for both (compare {angle

Some other common usages cause odd overlaps. The `#',
`$', `>', and `&' characters, for example, are all
pronounced "hex" in different communities because various
assemblers use them as a prefix tag for hexadecimal constants (in
particular, `#' in many assembler-programming cultures,
`$' in the 6502 world, `>' at Texas Instruments, and
`&' on the BBC Micro, Sinclair, and some Z80 machines). See
also {splat}.

The inability of ASCII text to correctly represent any of the
world's other major languages makes the designers' choice of 7 bits
look more and more like a serious {misfeature} as the use of
international networks continues to increase (see {software
rot}). Hardware and software from the U.S. still tends to embody
the assumption that ASCII is the universal character set; this is a
a major irritant to people who want to use a character set suited
to their own languages. Perversely, though, efforts to solve this
problem by proliferating `national' character sets produce an
evolutionary pressure to use a *smaller* subset common to all
those in use.

:ASCII art: n. The fine art of drawing diagrams using the ASCII
character set (mainly `|', `-', `/', `\', and
`+'). Also known as `character graphics' or `ASCII
graphics'; see also {boxology}. Here is a serious example:

o----)||(--+--|<----+ +---------o + D O
L )||( | | | C U
A I )||( +-->|-+ | +-\/\/-+--o - T
C N )||( | | | | P
E )||( +-->|-+--)---+--)|--+-o U
)||( | | | GND T

A power supply consisting of a full
wave rectifier circuit feeding a
capacitor input filter circuit

Figure 1.

And here are some very silly examples:

|\/\/\/| ____/| ___ |\_/| ___
| | \ o.O| ACK! / \_ |` '| _/ \
| | =(_)= THPHTH! / \/ \/ \
| (o)(o) U / \
C _) (__) \/\/\/\ _____ /\/\/\/
| ,___| (oo) \/ \/
| / \/-------\ U (__)
/____\ || | \ /---V `v'- oo )
/ \ ||---W|| * * |--| || |`. |_/\

Figure 2.

There is an important subgenre of humorous ASCII art that takes
advantage of the names of the various characters to tell a
pun-based joke.

| ^^^^^^^^^^^^ |
| ^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^ |
| ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ |
| ^^^^^^^ B ^^^^^^^^^ |
| ^^^^^^^^^ ^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ |
" A Bee in the Carrot Patch "

Figure 3.

Within humorous ASCII art, there is for some reason an entire
flourishing subgenre of pictures of silly cows. Four of these are
reproduced in Figure 2; here are three more:

(__) (__) (__)
(\/) ($$) (**)
/-------\/ /-------\/ /-------\/
/ | 666 || / |=====|| / | ||
* ||----|| * ||----|| * ||----||
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
Satanic cow This cow is a Yuppie Cow in love

Figure 4.

:attoparsec: n. `atto-' is the standard SI prefix for
multiplication by 10^(-18). A parsec (parallax-second) is
3.26 light-years; an attoparsec is thus 3.26 * 10^(-18) light
years, or about 3.1 cm (thus, 1 attoparsec/{microfortnight}
equals about 1 inch/sec). This unit is reported to be in use
(though probably not very seriously) among hackers in the U.K. See

:autobogotiphobia: /aw'to-boh-got`*-foh'bee-*/ n. See {bogotify}.

:automagically: /aw-toh-maj'i-klee/ or /aw-toh-maj'i-k*l-ee/ adv.
Automatically, but in a way that, for some reason (typically
because it is too complicated, or too ugly, or perhaps even too
trivial), the speaker doesn't feel like explaining to you. See


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