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========= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.1.1 (DRAFT) 12 JUN 1990  =========

This `jargon file' is a collection of slang terms used by various
subcultures of computer hackers.

The original `jargon file' was a collection of hacker slang from
technical cultures including 1) the MIT AI Lab, 2) the Stanford
AI lab, 3) the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities, 3) Carnegie-
Mellon University, 4) Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Some entries
dated back to the early 1970s. This version was published as _The_
Hacker's_Dictionary_ in 1983.

This new version casts a wider net than the old jargon file;
its aim is to cover not just AI but all the technical computing
cultures wherein the true hacker-nature is manifested. More than
half of the entries now derive from USENET and the C and UNIX

The present maintainers of the jargon file are Guy L. Steele
( and Eric S. Raymond ( Send
all additions, corrections and correspondence relating to the
jargon file to

The original jargon file was compiled by Guy L. Steele Jr., Raphael
Finkel, Don Woods, and Mark Crispin, with assistance from the MIT and
Stanford AI communities and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Some contributions were submitted via the ARPAnet from miscellaneous
sites. The `old' jargon file was last revised in 1983; its revisions
are all un-numbered and may be collectively considered `Version 1'.

Version 2.1: the jargon file reorganization and massive additions
were by Eric S. Raymond, approved by Guy Steele. Many items of UNIX,
C, USENET and microcomputer-based slang were added at that time (as
well as Appendix A, The Untimely Demise of Mabel The Monkey). Some
obsolescent usages (mostly PDP-10 derived) were moved to appendix B.

Our thanks to all the USENETters who contributed entries and
encouragement. Special thanks to our Scandinavian correspondent Per
Lindberg (, author of the remarkable Swedish language
'zine _Hackerbladet_, for bring FOO! comics to our attention and
smuggling the IBM hacker underground's own baby jargon file out to
us. Also special gratitude to ace hacker/linguist Joe Keane
( for helping us improve the pronunciation guides.

Try to conform to the format already being used -- 70 character
lines, 3-character indentations, pronunciations in parentheses,
etymologies in brackets, single-space after def'n numbers and word
classes, etc. Stick to the standard ASCII character set.

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 slang!

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 slang 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 slang 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!

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

Verb doubling: a standard construction is to double a verb and use it
as a comment on what the implied subject does. Often used to
terminate a conversation. Typical examples involve WIN, LOSE,
"The disk heads just crashed." "Lose, lose."
"Mostly he just talked about his @#!!$% crock. Flame, flame."
"Boy, what a bagbiter! Chomp, chomp!"

Soundalike slang: similar to Cockney rhyming slang. Often made up on
the spur of the moment. Standard examples:
Boston Globe => Boston Glob
Herald American => Horrid (Harried) American
New York Times => New York Slime
Prime Time => Slime Time
government property - do not duplicate (seen on keys)
=> government duplicity - do not propagate
Often the substitution will be made in such a way as to slip in
a standard jargon word:
Dr. Dobb's Journal => Dr. Frob's Journal
Margaret Jacks Hall => Marginal Hacks Hall
Data General => Dirty Genitals

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: "Foodp?" "Yeah, I'm pretty hungry." or "T!"
"State-of-the-world-P?" (Straight) "I'm about to go home."
(Humorous) "Yes, the world has a state."
[One of the best of these is a Gosperism (i.e., due to Bill
Gosper). When we were at a Chinese restaurant, he 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]

Peculiar nouns: MIT AI 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. Examples:
porous => porosity
generous => generosity
Ergo: mysterious => mysteriosity
ferrous => ferrocity

Other examples: winnitude, disgustitude, hackification.

Also, note that all nouns can be verbed. eg: "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.

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 in a com link. Another
expression sometimes heard is "complain!", meaning "I have a

Hacker speech style: 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 is essential. One should
use just enough jargon to communicate precisely and identify
oneself as "in the culture"; overuse and a breathless, excessively
gung-ho attitude are considered tacky and the mark of a loser.

Hacker speech style (a variety of the precisionist English normally
spoken by scientists, design engineers, and academics in technical
fields) is fairly constant everywhere. Of the four other listed
constructions, verb doubling and peculiar noun formations have become
quite general; but rhyming slang is still largely confined to MIT and
other large universities, and the P convention is found only where
LISPers flourish.

One final note. 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:


The last is never actually attained.


The pronunciation keys in the jargon listing use the following
simple system:

1) Syllables are hyphen-separated, except that an apostrophe
or back-apostrophe follows each accented syllable (the
back apostrophe 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 (but it is sometimes
doubled at the end of syllables to emphasize this). The
digraph `dh' is the th of `these clothes', not of `thick'.

3) Vowels are represented as follows:

a back, that
ah father, palm
ar far, mark
aw flaw, caught
ay bake, rain
e less, men
ee easy, ski
eir their, software
i trip, hit
ie life, sky
o cot, top
oh flow, sew
oo loot, through
or more, door
ow out, how
oy boy, coin
uh but, some
u put, foot
y yet
yoo few
[y]oo oo with optional `fronting' as in `news' (noos or nyoos).

An at-sign 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 "kul'r".


= =

@BEGIN [primarily CMU] with @End, used humorously in writing to
indicate a context or to remark on the surrounded text. From
the SCRIBE command of the same name. For example:
Predicate logic is the only good programming language.
Anyone who would use anything else is an idiot. Also,
computers should be tredecimal instead of binary.
On USENET, this construct would more frequently be rendered as
and .

= A =

ABEND (ab'end) n. Abnormal termination (of software); crash; lossage.
Derives from an error message on the IBM 360, but has passed into
more general use.

ACK (ak) interj. 1. [from the ASCII mnemonic for 000110] Acknowledge.
Used to register one's presence (compare mainstream "Yo!"). An
appropriate response to PING. 2. [prob. from _Bloom_County_] An
exclamation of surprised disgust, esp. in "Oop ack!".

ADGER (adj'r) [UCLA] v. To make a bonehead move that could have been
forseen with a slight amount of mental effort, i.e., "He started
removing files and promptly adgered the whole project".

AD-HOCKERY (ad-hok'@r-ee) [Purdue] n. Gratuitous assumptions made
inside certain programs, esp. expert systems, which lead to the
appearance of semi-intelligent behavior, but are in fact entirely

ADVENT (ad'vent) n. The prototypical computer adventure game, first
implemented on the PDP-10 by MIT hackers Dave Lebling, Mark Blank
and Don R. Woods as a demo for a natural-language parser they were
hacking on at the time. Now better known as Adventure, but the
TOPS-10 operating system only permitted 6-letter filenames. "A huge
green fierce snake bars the way!"

ALIASING SCREW (ayl'ee-@-sing) [C programmers] n. A class of subtle
programming errors which can arise in code that does dynamic
allocation via malloc(3). If more than one pointer addresses
(`aliases for') a given hunk of storage, it may happen that the
storage is freed through one alias and then referenced through
another, leading 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. See also PRECEDENCE SCREW, SMASH THE STACK,

ALT BIT (ahlt bit) [from alternate?] adj. See META BIT.

ANGLE BRACKETS (ang'@l brak'@ts) [primarily MIT] n. Either of the
characters "<" and ">". See BROKET.

APP (ap) n. Short for `application program', as opposed to a systems
program. What systems vendors are forever chasing developers to do
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 apps. Oppose TOOL, OPERATING SYSTEM.

ARENA (a-ree'nuh) [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

ARG (arg) n. Abbreviation for "argument" (to a function), used so
often as to have become a new word. Compare PARAM, VAR.

ASBESTOS LONGJOHNS (as-bes't@s long'jons), UNDIES (uhn'dees), or
OVERCOAT (o'vr-koht) n. Metaphoric garments often donned by USENET
posters just before emitting a remark they expect will elicit

ASCII (as'kee) Common slang names for ASCII characters are collected
here. See individual entries for BANG, CLOSE, EXCL, OPEN, QUES,
This list is snarfed from USENET circa 1983. Single characters are
listed in ASCII order, followed by multiples. For each character,
"official" names appear first, then others in order of popularity
(more or less).

! exclamation point, exclamation, bang, factorial, excl, ball-bat,
smash, shriek, cuss, wow, hey
" double quote, quote, dirk, literal mark, rabbit ears
# pound sign, number sign, sharp, crunch, mesh, hex, hash,
flash, grid, pig-pen, tictactoe, scratchmark, octothorp (from
Bell System)
$ dollar sign, currency symbol, buck, cash, string (from BASIC),
escape (from TOPS-10), ding, big-money
% percent sign, percent, mod, double-oh-seven
& ampersand, amper, and, address (from C), andpersand
' apostrophe, single quote, quote, prime, tick, irk, pop, spark
() open/close parenthesis, left/right parenthesis, paren/thesis,
parenthisey, unparenthisey, open/close round bracket, ears,
so/already, wax/wane
* asterisk, star, splat, wildcard, gear, dingle, mult ("multiply")
+ plus sign, plus, add, cross, intersection
, comma, tail
- hyphen, dash, minus sign, worm
. period, dot, decimal point, radix point, point, full stop, spot
/ virgule, slash, stroke, slant, diagonal, solidus, over, slat
: colon, two-spot
; semicolon, semi, hybrid
<> angle brackets, brokets, left/right angle, less/greater than,
read from/write to, from/into, from/toward, in/out, comesfrom/
gozinta (all from UNIX), funnel, brokets, crunch/zap, suck/blow
= equal sign, equals, quadrathorp, gets, half-mesh
? question mark, whatmark, what, wildchar, ques, huh, quark
@ at sign, at, each, vortex, whorl, whirlpool, cyclone, snail,
ape, cat
V vee, book
[] square brackets, left/right bracket, bracket/unbracket, bra/ket,
square/unsquare, U turns
\ reversed virgule, backslash, bash, backslant, backwhack, backslat,
escape (from UNIX)
^ circumflex, caret, uparrow, hat, chevron, sharkfin, to ("to
the power of"), fang
_ underscore, underline, underbar, under, score, backarrow, flatworm
` grave accent, grave, backquote, left quote, open quote, backprime,
unapostrophe, backspark, birk, blugle, back tick, push
{} open/close brace, left/right brace, brace/unbrace, curly bracket,
curly/uncurly, leftit/rytit, embrace/bracelet
| vertical bar, bar, or, v-bar, spike, pipe, gozinta, thru,
pipesinta (last four from UNIX)
~ tilde, squiggle, approx, wiggle, twiddle, swung dash, enyay

ASSEMBLER (as'em-bler) 1. A program translator that allows human
beings to generate machine code using mnemonics and symbolic names
for memory locations rather than raw binary; distinguished from an
HLL (q.v.) by the fact that a single assembler step generally maps
to a single machine instruction (see also LANGUAGES OF CHOICE). 2.A
NANOBOT which is a physical REPLICATOR. (This is the "official"
term, coined by Eric Drexler; see NANOTECHNOLOGY).

AUTOMAGICALLY (aw-toh-maj'i-klee, aw-toh-maj'i-kl-ee) adv.
Automatically, but in a way which, for some reason (typically
because it is too complicated, or too ugly, or perhaps even too
trivial), I don't feel like explaining to you. See MAGIC.
Example: Some programs which produce XGP output files spool them

= B =

BACKBONE CABAL (bak'bohn k@-bawl') n. Semi-mythical group of
large-site administrators who pushed through the GREAT RENAMING and
reined in the chaos of USENET during most of the 1980s. The cabal
mailing list disbanded in late 1988 after a bitter internal
catfight, but the net hardly noticed.

BACK DOOR (bak dor) n. A hole in the security of a system deliberately
left in place by designers or maintainers. The motivation for this
is not always sinister; some operating systems, for example, come
out of the box with privileged accounts intended for use by field
service or the vendor's maintenance programmers. Historically, back
doors have often lurked in systems longer than any one expected or
planned, and a few have become widely known. The famous RTM worm of
late 1988, for example, used a back door in the BSD UNIX
sendmail(1) utility. See also IRON BOX, CRACKER, WORM, LOGIC BOMB.

BACKGROUND (bak'grownd) v.,adj. A task running in background is
detached from the terminal where it was started and running at a
lower priority (oppose FOREGROUND). Nowadays this term is primarily
associated with UNIX, but it was appears first to have been used in
this sense on OS/360. By extension, to do a task "in background" is
to do it whenever FOREGROUND matters are not claiming your
undivided attention, and "to background" something means to
relegate it to a lower priority. Compare SLOPSUCKER.

BAD THING (bad thing) n. Something which can't possibly result in
improvement of the subject. This term is always capitalized, as in
"Replacing all of the 9600 baud modems with bicycle couriers would
be a Bad Thing." Oppose GOOD THING.

BAGBITER (bag'biet-@r) 1. n. Equipment or program that fails, usually
intermittently. 2. BAGBITING: adj. Failing hardware or software.
"This bagbiting system won't let me get out of SPACEWAR." Usage:
verges on obscenity. Grammatically separable; one may speak of
"biting the bag". Synonyms: LOSER, LOSING, CRETINOUS, BLETCHEROUS,

BAMF (bamf) [from comix] interj. Notional sound made by a person or
object teleporting in or out of the hearer's vicinity. Often used
in VIRTUAL REALITY (q.v.) electronic fora when a character wishes
to make a dramatic entrance or exit.

BANG (bang) 1. n. Common alternate name for EXCL (q.v.), especially at
CMU and when used in pronouncing a BANG PATH (q.v.) in spoken
hackish. See SHRIEK. 2. interj. An exclamation signifying roughly
"I have achieved enlightenment!" or "The dynamite has cleared out
my brain!". Often used to acknowledge that one has perpetrated a
THINKO immediately after one has been called on it.

BANG PATH (bang path) n. An old-style UUCP electronic-mail address
specifying hops to get from some assumed-reachable location to the
addressee, so called because each hop is signified by a BANG sign.
Thus the path "...!bigsite!foovax!barbox!me" directs correspondents
to route their mail to machine bigsite (presumably a well-known
location accessible to everybody) and from there through the
machine "foovax" to the account of user "me" on "barbox". See

BAR (bar) 1. The second metasyntactic variable, after FOO and before
BAZ. "Suppose we have two functions FOO and BAR. FOO calls
BAR..." 2. Often appended to FOO to produce FOOBAR.

BARF (barf) [from the "layman" slang, meaning "vomit"] 1. interj. Term
of disgust. See BLETCH. 2. v. Choke, as on input. May mean to
give an error message. "The function `=' compares two fixnums or
two flonums, and barfs on anything else." 3. BARFULOUS,
BARFUCIOUS: adj. Said of something which would make anyone barf, if
only for aesthetic reasons. See CHOKE, GAG.

BAUD BARF (bawd barf) n. The garbage one gets on the monitor when
using a modem connection with some protocol setting (esp. line
speed) incorrect, or when someone picks up a voice extension on the
same line, or when really bad line noise disrupts the connection.

BAZ (baz) 1. The third metasyntactic variable, after FOO and BAR and
before QUX. "Suppose we have three functions FOO, BAR, and BAZ.
FOO calls BAR, which calls BAZ..." 2. Occasionally appended to FOO
to produce FOOBAZ.

BELLS AND WHISTLES (belz and hwis'@lz) [by analogy with locomotives]
n. Features added to a program or system to make it more FLAVORFUL
from a hacker's point of view, without necessarily adding to its
utility for its primary function. Distinguished from CHROME which
is intended to attract users.

BENCHMARK (bench'mark) n. An inaccurate measure of computer
performance. As in "In the computer industry, there are three
kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and benchmarks."

BERKLIX (ber'kliks) n.,adj. Contraction of Berkeley UNIX. See BSD. Not
used at Berkeley itself. [This one, in my experience, is more
common among suit-wearers attempting to sound "hip" than hackers --

BERZERKELY (b@r-zer'klee) [from the name of a now-deceased record
label] n. Humorous, often-used distortion of "Berkeley" used esp.
to refer to the practices or products of the BSD UNIX hackers.

BIG-ENDIAN (big'-en-di-@n) adj. Describes a computer architecture in
which, within a given 16- or 32-bit word, lower byte addresses have
higher significance (the word is stored `big-end-first'). Most
processors including the IBM 370 family and the PDP-10 and the
Intel and Motorola microprocessor families and the various RISC
designs current in 1990 are big-endian. See LITTLE-ENDIAN.

BIG IRON (big ie'@rn) n. Large, expensive, ultra-fast computers. Used
generally of number crunching supercomputers such as Crays, but can
include more conventional big commercial IBMish mainframes.
Believed to have originated in the title of a paper given at a
Usenix, "Unix on Big Iron". Term of approval, compare DINOSAUR.

BIG RED SWITCH (big red swich) [IBM] n. The power switch on a
computer, esp. on an IBM-PC where it really is large and red. As in
"This !@%$% BITTY BOX is hung again, time to hit the big red

BIGNUMS (big'nuhms) [from Macsyma] n. 1. In backgammon, large numbers
on the dice. 2. Multiple-precision (sometimes infinitely
extendable) integers and, through analogy, any very large numbers.
3. EL CAMINO BIGNUM: El Camino Real, a street through the San
Francisco peninsula that originally extended (and still appears in
places) all the way to Mexico City. It was termed "El Camino
Double Precision" when someone noted it was a very long street, and
then "El Camino Bignum" when it was pointed out that it was
hundreds of miles long.

BINARY (bie'na-ree) n. The object code for a program.

BIT BANG (bit bang) n. Transmission of data on a serial line
accomplished by rapidly tweaking a single output bit at the
appropriate times (popular on certain early models of PRIME
computers, presumably when UARTs were too expensive; and on archaic
Z-80 micros with a Zilog PIO but no SIO). The technique is a simple
loop with eight OUT, SHIFT, OUT etc for each byte. Input is more
interesting. And full duplex (doing input and output at the same
time) is one way to separate the real hackers from the wannabees.

BIT BUCKET (bit buhk'@t) n. The great data sink in the sky. Data that
is discarded is said to "go to the bit bucket". On UNIX, often used
for /dev/null. Sometimes amplified as THE GREAT BIT BUCKET IN THE

BIT DECAY (bit d@-kay') n. See SOFTWARE ROT. People with a physics
background tend to prefer this one for the analogy with particle

BIT ROT (bit rot) n. See SOFTWARE ROT.

BITBLT (bit'blit, bit'belt) n. [from BLT, q.v.] 1. One of a closely
related family of algorithms for moving and copying rectangles of
bits between main and display memory on a bit-mapped device, or
between two areas of either main or display memory (the requirement
to do the right thing in the case of overlapping source and
destination rectangles is what makes BitBlt tricky). 2. An early
experimental bit-mapped terminal at Bell Labs, later commercialized
as the AT&T 5620.

BITTY BOX (bit'ee boks) n. 1. A computer sufficiently small, primitive
or incapable as to cause a hacker acute claustrophobia at the
thought of developing for it. Especially used of small,
obsolescent, single-tasking-only personal machines like the Atari
800X, Osborne, Sinclair, VIC-20, or TRS-80. 2. More generally, the
opposite of `real computer' (see GET A REAL COMPUTER). Pejorative.
See also MESS-DOS, TOASTER, and TOY.

BIXIE (biks'ee) n. Synonym for EMOTICON used on BIX (the Byte
Information Exchange); BIXers believe the emoticon was invented

BLAST (blast) v.,n. Synonym for BLT (q.v.), used esp. for large data
sends over a network or comm line. Opposite of SNARF. Usage:

BLAZER (blay'zr) n. Nickname for the Telebit Trailblazer, an expensive
but extremely reliable and effective high-speed modem, popular at
UNIX sites that pass large volumes of EMAIL and USENET news.

BLETCH (blech) [from German "brechen", to vomit (?)] 1. interj. Term
of disgust. 2. BLETCHEROUS: adj. Disgusting in design or function.
"This keyboard is bletcherous!" Usage: slightly comic.

BLINKENLIGHTS (blink'@n-lietz) n. Front-panel diagnostic lights on a
mainframe CPU. Derives from the last word of the famous
blackletter-Gothic "ACHTUNG! ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS!" notice in
mangled pseudo-German that once graced about half the computer
rooms in the English-speaking world. The following text ran: "Das
computermachine ist nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist
easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit
spitzensparken. Ist nicht fur gewerken bei das dumpkopfen. Das
rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen hans in das pockets muss; relaxen
und watch das blinkenlichten." This silliness dates back at least
as far as the London University ATLAS site in the 1960s, but
(judging by the idioms) was probably composed by an American at
some still-earlier date.

BLOCK (blok) [From computer science usage] 1. vi. To delay while
waiting for something. "We're blocking until everyone gets here."
2. in BLOCK ON vt. To block, waiting for (something). "Lunch is
blocked on Phil's arrival."

BLOCK TRANSFER COMPUTATIONS (blok trans'fer kom-pyoo-tay'shns) n.
From the Dr. Who television series: in the show, it referred to
computations so fiendishly subtle and complex that they could not
be performed by machines. Used to refer to any task that should be
expressible as an algorithm in theory, but isn't.

BLOW AWAY (bloh @-way') v. To remove files and directories from
permanant storage with extreme prejudice, generally by accident.
Oppose NUKE.

BLOW OUT (bloh owt) v. Of software, to fail spectacularly; almost as

BLOW PAST (bloh past) v. To BLOW OUT despite a safeguard. "The server
blew past the 5K reserve buffer."

BLT (blit, belt [very rarely]) v. To transfer a large contiguous package
of information from one place to another. This usage has outlasted
the PDP-10 BLock Transfer instruction for which it derives. See
DD, CAT, BLAST, SNARF, Appendix B.

BLUE GLUE (bloo gloo) [IBM] n. IBM's SNA (Systems Network
Architecture) an incredibly losing and bletcherous protocol suite
widely favored at commercial shops that don't know any better.

BLUE GOO (bloo goo) n. Term for "police" NANOBOTS intended to prevent
GRAY GOO (q.v.), denature hazardous waste, destroy pollution, put
ozone back into the stratosphere, prevent halitosis, and to promote
truth, justice, and the American way, etc., etc. See

BNF (bee-en-ef) n. Hacker acronym for `Backus-Naur Form', a
metasyntactic notation used to specify the syntax of programming
languages, command sets and the like. Widely used for language
descriptions but seldom documented anywhere, so that it must
usually be learned by osmosis from other hackers. Consider this BNF
for a postal address:


::= []

| "."

::= []

::= ","

This translates into English as: A postal-address consists of
a name-part, followed by a street-address part, followed by a
zip-code part. A name-part consists of a first-name followed
by an optional middle-part followed by a last-name. A middle-part
consists of either a middle name or a middle initial followed
by a dot. A street address consists of an optional apartment
specifier followed by a street number, followed by a street name.
A zip-part consts of a town-name, followed by a state code,
followed by a zip code. Note that many things such as the format
of a first-name, apartment specifier or zip-code are left
unspecified. These are presumed to be obvious from context or
detailed in another part of the specification the BNF is part of.

BOA (bo'uh) [IBM] n. Any one of the fat cables that lurk under the
floor in DINOSAUR PENS. It is rumored within IBM that 370 channel
cables are limited to 200 feet because beyond that length the
boas get dangerous...

BOAT ANCHOR (boht an'kr) n. Like DOORSTOP (q.v.) but more severe,
implies that the offending hardware is irreversibly dead or

BOGOMETER (boh-goh'm@-tr) n. An instrument to measure BOGOSITY,
generally a conversational device, as in "my bogometer is reading
in the red on that idea" or "I think you just bent the needle on my

BOGON (bo'gon) [by analogy with proton/electron/neutron, but
doubtless reinforced by the similarity to "Vogon"] n. 1. The
elementary particle of bogosity (see QUANTUM BOGODYNAMICS). For
instance, "the ethernet is emitting bogons again," meaning that it
is broken or acting in an erratic or bogus fashion. 2. A query
packet sent from a TCP/IP domain resolver to a root server, having
the reply bit set instead of the query bit. 3. Any bogus or
incorrectly formed packet sent on a network. 4. By extension, used
to refer metasyntactically to any bogus thing, such as "I'd like to
go to lunch with you but I've got to go to the weekly staff bogon."

BOGON FILTER (bo'gon fil'tr) n. Any device, software or hardware,
which limits or suppresses the flow and/or emission of bogons.
Example: "Engineering hacked a bogon filter between the Cray and
the VAXen and now we're getting fewer dropped packets."

BOGOSITY (boh-gos-@-tee) n. 1. The degree to which something is BOGUS
(q.v.). At CMU, bogosity is measured with a bogometer; typical
use: in a seminar, when a speaker says something bogus, a listener
might raise his hand and say, "My bogometer just triggered." The
agreed-upon unit of bogosity is the microLenat (uL). 2. The
potential field generated by a bogon flux; see QUANTUM

BOGUS (boh'guhs) [WPI, Yale, Stanford] adj. 1. Non-functional. "Your
patches are bogus." 2. Useless. "OPCON is a bogus program." 3.
False. "Your arguments are bogus." 4. Incorrect. "That algorithm
is bogus." 5. Silly. "Stop writing those bogus sagas." (This
word seems to have some, but not all, of the connotations of
RANDOM.) [Etymological note from Lehman/Reid at CMU: "Bogus" was
originally used (in this sense) at Princeton, in the late 60s. It
was used not particularly in the CS department, but all over
campus. It came to Yale, where one of us (Lehman) was an
undergraduate, and (we assume) elsewhere through the efforts of
Princeton alumni who brought the word with them from their alma
mater. In the Yale case, the alumnus is Michael Shamos, who was a
graduate student at Yale and is now a faculty member here. A
glossary of bogus words was compiled at Yale when the word was
first popularized (e.g., autobogophobia: the fear of becoming

BOHR BUG (bor buhg) [from quantum physics] n. A repeatable BUG; one
which manifests reliably under a possibly unknown but well-defined
set of conditions. Antonym of HEISENBUG.

BOINK (boynk) [USENET] 1. To have sex with; compare BOUNCE, sense #3.
2. After the original Peter Korn "Boinkcon" USENET parties, used
for almost any net social gathering, e.g. Miniboink, a small boink
held by Nancy Gillett in 1988; Minniboink, a Boinkcon in Minnesota
in 1989; Humpdayboinks, Wednesday get-togethers held in the San
Francisco Bay Area.

BONDAGE-AND-DISCIPLINE LANGUAGE (bon'd@j @n dis'@-plin lang'w@j) A
language such as Pascal, APL, or Prolog that, though ostensibly
general-purpose, is designed so as to enforce an author's theory of
"right programming" even though said theory is demonstrably
inadequate for systems or even vanilla general-purpose programming.

BOOT (boot) [from "by one's bootstraps"] v.,n. To load and initialize
the operating system on a machine. This usage is no longer slang
(having become jargon in the strict sense), but the following
variants still are. COLD BOOT: a boot from a power- off condition.
WARM BOOT: a reboot with the CPU and all devices already powered
up, as after a hardware reset or software crash.

BOTTLENECKED (bot'l-nekt) adj. 1. Used by hackers specifically to
describe hardware under which performance is usually limited by
contention for one particular resource (such as disk, memory or
processor CLOCKS); see BALANCED. 2. Less often, applied to the
software analogue of sense #1, a slow code section or algorithm
through which all computation must pass (see also HOT SPOT).

BOUNCE (bowns) v. 1. [UNIX] An electronic mail message which is
undeliverable and returns an error notification to the sender is
said to `bounce'. See also BOUNCE MESSAGE. 2. [Stanford] To play
volleyball. "Bounce, bounce! Stop wasting time on the computer and
get out to the court!" 3. To engage in sexual intercourse.

BOUNCE MESSAGE (bowns mes'@j) [UNIX] n. Notification message returned
to sender by a site unable to relay EMAIL to the intended INTERNET
ADDRESS recipient or the next link in a BANG PATH (see BOUNCE).
Reasons might include a nonexistent or misspelled username or a
down relay site. Bounce messages can themselves fail, with
occasionally ugly results; see SORCERER'S APPRENTICE MODE.

BOXEN (bok'sn) pl n. [back-formation from VAXEN] Fanciful plural of
`box' often encountered in the phrase `UNIX boxen', used to
describe commodity UNIX hardware. The implication is that any two
UNIX boxen are interchangeable.

BRAIN-DAMAGED (brayn'dam-@jd) [generalization of "Honeywell Brain
Damage" (HBD), a theoretical disease invented to explain certain
utter cretinisms in MULTICS] adj. Obviously wrong; CRETINOUS;
DEMENTED. There is an implication that the person responsible must
have suffered brain damage, because he should have known better.
Calling something brain-damaged is really bad; it also implies it
is unusable.

BRANCH TO FISHKILL (branch to fish'kill) [IBM, from the location of
one of their facilities] n. Any unexpected jump in a program that
produces catastrophic or just plain weird results. See HYPERSPACE.

BREAK (brayk) v. 1. To cause to be broken (in any sense). "Your
latest patch to the system broke the TELNET server." 2. (of a
program) To stop temporarily, so that it may be examined for
debugging purposes. The place where it stops is a BREAKPOINT.

BREAKAGE (brayk'@j) [IBM] n. The extra people that must be added to an
organization because its master plan has changed; used esp. of
software and hardware development teams.

BRITTLE (bri'tl) adj. Said of software that's easily broken. Often
describes the results of a research effort that were never intended
to be robust, but equally can apply commercially developed

BROADCAST STORM (brod'kast storm) n. An incorrect packet broadcast
on a network that causes most hosts to respond all at once,
typically with wrong answers that start the process over again.

BROKEN (broh'kn) adj. 1. Not working properly (of programs). 2.
Behaving strangely; especially (of people), exhibiting extreme

BROKET (broh'k@t, broh'ket) [by analogy with "bracket": a "broken
bracket"] (primarily Stanford) n. Either of the characters "<" and
">". (At MIT, and apparently in THE REAL WORLD (q.v.) as well,
these are usually called ANGLE BRACKETS.)

BRUTE FORCE AND IGNORANCE (broot fohrs @nd ig'nohr-ans) n. A popular
design technique at many software houses. Dogmatic adherence to
design methodologies tends to encourage it. Characteristic of early
LARVAL STAGE programming; unfortunately, many never outgrow it.
Often abbreviated BFI, as in: "Gak, they used a bubble sort! That's
strictly from BFI." Compare BOGOSITY.

BSD (bee-ess-dee) n. [acronym for Berkeley System Distribution] a
family of UNIX versions for the DEC VAX developed by Bill Joy and
others at UC Berkeley starting around 1980, incorporating TCP/IP
networking enhancements and many other features. The BSD versions
(4.1, 4.2, and 4.3) and commercial versions derived from them
(SunOS and Mt. Xinu) held the technical lead in the UNIX world
until AT&T's successful standardization efforts after about 1986,
and are still widely popular. See UNIX, USG UNIX.

BUCKY BITS (buh'kee bits) [primarily Stanford] n. The bits produced by
the CTRL and META shift keys on a Stanford (or Knight) keyboard. It
is rumored that these were in fact named for Buckminster Fuller
during a period when he was consulting at Stanford. Unfortunately,
legend also has it that "Bucky" was Niklaus Wirth's nickname when
*he* was consulting at Stanford and that he first suggested the
idea of the meta key, so its bit was named after him. DOUBLE BUCKY:
adj. Using both the CTRL and META keys. "The command to burn all
LEDs is double bucky F." See also META BIT, COKEBOTTLE.

BUFFER OVERFLOW (buhf'r oh'vr-floh) n. What typically happens when an
OS or application is fed data faster than it can buffer and process
it. Used metaphorically of human mental processes. Ex. "Sorry, I
got four phone calls in three minutes last night and lost your
message to a buffer overflow."

BUG (buhg) [from telephone terminology, "bugs in a telephone cable",
blamed for noisy lines] n. An unwanted and unintended property of a
program, esp. one which causes it to malfunction. See FEATURE.

BULLETPROOF (bul'@t-proof) adj. Used of an algorithm or implementation
considered extremely robust; lossage-resistant; capable of
correctly recovering from any imaginable exception condition. This
is a rare and valued quality.

BUM (buhm) 1. v. To make highly efficient, either in time or space,
often at the expense of clarity. "I managed to bum three more
instructions." 2. n. A small change to an algorithm to make it
more efficient. Usage: somewhat rare. See TUNE.

BUMP (buhmp) v. Synonym for increment. Has the same meaning as C's ++
operator. Used esp. of counter variables, pointers (see POINTER
ARITHMETIC) and index dummies in for, while, and do-until loops.

BURBLE (ber'bl) v. Like FLAME, but connotes that the source is truly
clueless and ineffectual (mere flamers can be competent). A term of
deep contempt.

BUSY-WAIT (bi'zee-wayt) v. To wait on an event by SPINning through a
tight or timed-delay loop that checks for the event on each pass,
as opposed to setting up an interrupt handler and continuing
execution on another part of the task. A wasteful technique, best
avoided on time-sharing systems where a busy-waiting program may
hog the processor.

BUZZ (buhz) v. To run in a very tight loop, perhaps without guarantee
of getting out. See SPIN.

BWQ [bee duhb'l-yoo kyoo) [IBM] n. Buzz Word Quotient. Usually roughly
proportional to BOGOSITY. See TLA.

BYTESEXUAL (biet-seks'u-@l) adj. Said of hardware, denotes
willingness to compute or pass data in either BIG ENDIAN or LITTLE
ENDIAN format (depending, presumably, on a mode bit somewhere).

= C =

C (see) n. 1. The third letter of the Latin alphabet. 2. The name of a
programming language designed by Dennis Ritchie during the early
1970s and first used to implement UNIX (q.v.). So called because
many features derived from an earlier interpreter named 'B' in
commemoration of *its* parent, BCPL; before Bjarne Stroustrup
settled the question by designing C++, there was a humorous debate
over whether C's successor should be named `D' or 'P'. C became
immensely popular outside Bell Labs after about 1980 and is now the
dominant language in systems and microcomputer applications
programming. See LANGUAGES OF CHOICE.

CAMBRIDGE NOTATION (kaym'brij no-ta'shn) [LISP] n. The now-standard
way of writing LISP expressions as nested lists, with parens and
spaces; as opposed to the earlier and technically purer practice of
writing full S-expressions with cons dots. Supposedly invented as a
KLUGE because a full parser for S-expressions would have been
harder to write.

CAN (can) v. To abort a job on a time-sharing system. Used esp. when
the person doing the deed is an operator, as in CANNED FROM THE
CONSOLE. Frequently used in an imperative sense, as in "Can that
print job, the LPT just popped a sprocket!". Synymous with GUN.

CANONICAL (k@-nahn'i-kl) adj. The usual or standard state or manner
of something. A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI
Lab, expressed some annoyance at the use of jargon. Over his loud
objections, we made a point of using jargon as much as possible in
his presence, and eventually it began to sink in. Finally, in one
conversation, he used the word "canonical" in jargon-like fashion
without thinking. Steele: "Aha! We've finally got you talking
jargon too!" Stallman: "What did he say?" Steele: "He just used
`canonical' in the canonical way."

CASTERS UP MODE (cas'trz uhp mohd) [IBM] n. Yet another synonym for
`broken' or `down'.

CAT (cat) [from UNIX cat(1)] v. To spew an entire (notionally large)
file to the screen or some other output sink without pause; by
extension, to dump large amounts of data at an unprepared target or
with no intention of browsing it carefully. Usage: considered
silly. Rare outside UNIX sites. See also DD, BLT.

CATATONIA (kat-@-toh'nee-uh) n. A condition of suspended animation
in which the system is in a wedged (CATATONIC) state.

CDR (ku'dr) [from LISP] v. With "down", to trace down a list of
elements. "Shall we cdr down the agenda?" Usage: silly.

CELL-REPAIR MACHINES (sel r:-peir' m:-sheens') n. An often-discussed
probable consequence of NANOTECHNOLOGY; NANOBOTS specifically
programmed to repair tissue at the cellular level. Possible uses
include reversing freezing damage from CRYONICS procedures and
correction of mutagen-damaged DNA (including eradication of
retrovirii and oncogenes).

CHAD (chad) n. 1. The perforated edge strips on printer paper, after
they have been separated from the printed portion. Also called
SELVAGE and PERF. 2. obs. the confetti-like paper bits punched out
of cards or paper tape; this was also called `chaff'.

CHAIN (chayn) [orig. from BASIC's CHAIN statement] v. When used of
programming languages, refers to a statement that allows a parent
executable to hand off execution to a child without going through
the OS command interpreter. The state of the parent program is lost
and there is no returning to it. Though this facility used to be
common on memory-limited micros and is still widely supported for
backward compatibility, the jargon usage is semi-obsolescent; in
particular most UNIX programmers will think of this as an EXEC.
Oppose the more modern SUBSHELL.

CHAR (keir; [rarely] char) n. Shorthand for `character'. Esp. used by
C programmers, as `char' is C's typename for character data.

CHASE POINTERS (chays uh poyn'tr) v. To go through multiple levels of
indirection, as in traversing a linked list or graph structure.
Used esp. by programmers in C, where explicit pointers are a very
common data type.

CHERNOBYL PACKET (cher-no'b@l pa'k@t) n. An IP Ethergram with both
source and destination Ether and IP address set as the respective
broadcast address. So called because it induces NETWORK MELTDOWN.

CHINESE RAVS (chie'neez ravs) [MIT] n. Pot-stickers. Kuo-teh. Gyoza.
Oriental dumplings, especially when pan-fried rather than steamed.
A favorite hacker appetizer. See ORIENTAL FOOD, STIR-FRIED RANDOM.

CHOKE (chohk) vi. To reject input, often ungracefully. Examples: "I
tried building X, but cpp choked on all those #define's." See BARF,

CHOMP (chomp) v. To lose; to chew on something of which more was
bitten off than one can. Probably related to gnashing of teeth.
See BAGBITER. A hand gesture commonly accompanies this, consisting
of the four fingers held together as if in a mitten or hand puppet,
and the fingers and thumb open and close rapidly to illustrate a
biting action. The gesture alone means CHOMP CHOMP (see Verb

CHRISTMAS TREE PACKET (krist'm@s tree pa'k@t) n. A packet with every
single option set for whatever protocol is in use.

CHROME (krohm) [from automotive slang via wargaming] n. Showy features
added to attract users, but which contribute little or nothing to
the power of a system. "The 3D icons in Motif are just chrome!"
Distinguished from BELLS AND WHISTLES by the fact that the former
are usually added to gratify developers' own desires for

CHURCH OF THE SUB-GENIUS (cherch @v dh@ suhb-gee'-ny@s) A mutant
offshoot of DISCORDIANISM launched in 1981 as a spoof of
fundamentalist Christianity by the "Rev." Ivan Stang, a brilliant
satirist with a gift for promotion. Popular among hackers as a rich
source of bizarre imagery and references such as: "Bob" the divine
drilling-equipment salesman, the Benevolent Space Xists and the
Stark Fist of Removal. Much Sub-Genius theory is concerned with the
acquisition of the mystical substance or quality of "slack".

CLASSIC C (klas'ik see) n. The C programming language as defined in
the first edition of the book ``The C Programming Language'' by
``Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie'' with some small
additions. It is also known as ``K & R C.'' The name came into
use during the standardisation process for C by the ANSI X3J11

CLOCKS (kloks) n. Processor logic cycles, so called because each
generally corresponds to one clock pulse in the processor's timing.
The relative execution times of instructions on a machine are
usually discussed in `clocks' rather than absolute fractions of a

CLONE (klohn) n. 1. An exact duplicate, as in "our product is a clone
of their product." 2. A shoddy, spurious copy, as in "their
product is a clone of our product." 3. A PC-BUS/ISA or
EISA-compatible 80x86 based microcomputer (in-context shorthand for
"PC clone"). 3. In the construction UNIX CLONE: An OS designed to
deliver a UNIX-lookalike environment sans UNIX license fees, or
with additional "mission-critical" features such as support for
real-time programming.

CLOSE (klohz) n. Abbreviation for "close (or right) parenthesis", used
when necessary to eliminate oral ambiguity. See OPEN.

CLUSTERGEEKING (kluh'ster-gee`king) [CMU] n. An activity defined by
spending more time at a computer cluster doing CS homework than
most people spend breathing.

COBOL FINGERS (koh'bol fing'grs) n. Reported from Sweden, a
(hypothetical) disease one might get from programming in COBOL. The
language requires extremely voluminous code. Programming too much
in COBOL causes the fingers to wear down (by endless typing), until
short stubs remain. This malformity is called COBOL FINGERS. "I
refuse to type in all that source code again, it will give me cobol

CODE GRINDER (kohd grien'dr) n. 1. A SUIT-wearing minion of the sort
hired in legion strength by banks and insurance companies to
implement payroll packages in RPG and other such unspeakable
horrors. This is about as far from hackerdom as you can get and
still touch a computer. Connotes pity. See REAL WORLD. 2. Used of
or to a hacker, a really serious slur on the person's creative
ability; connotes a design style characterized by primitive
technique, rule-boundedness, and utter lack of imagination.

CODE POLICE (kohd p@-lees') [by analogy with "thought police"] n. A
mythical team of Gestapo-like storm troopers that might burst into
one's office and arrest one for violating style rules. May be used
either "seriously" (to underline a claim that a particular style
violation is dangerous) or (more often) ironically (to suggest that
the practice under discussion is condemned mainly by anal-retentive

CODEWALKER (kohd'wok-r) n. A program component that traverses other
programs for a living. Compilers have codewalkers in their front
ends; so do cross-reference generators and some database
front-ends. As in "This language extension would require a
codewalker to implement."

COKEBOTTLE (kohk'bot-l) n. Any very unusual character. MIT people
used to complain about the "control-meta-cokebottle" commands at
SAIL, and SAIL people complained right back about the
"altmode-altmode-cokebottle" commands at MIT. Since the demise of
the SPACE-CADET KEYBOARD this is no longer a serious usage, but may
be invoked humorously to describe an (unspecified) weird or
non-intuitive keystroke command.

COME FROM (kuhm fruhm) n. A semi-mythical language construct dual to
the `go to'; COME FROM

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