Quantum Bogodynamics: Reading the Jargon File

File this one under “internet fun.” If your quota of internet fun has been reached then skip this. It is not specific to finance, economics, or health care.

Ammon Shea’s most recent book Reading the OED describes his journey through the bible of the English language. In it he catalogs the words he found most “interesting and unusual.” Nice work. But he missed an opportunity to read an even more interesting dictionary, the Jargon File. Called to my attention by an old friend, the Jargon File is “a comprehensive compendium of hacker slang illuminating many aspects of hackish tradition, folklore, and humor.”

One could get lost in the Jargon File for hours; it is chock full of beanie propeller turning fun. Some examples:

  • A banana problem is not knowing when or how to stop. It comes from a story about a little girl who said “I know how to spell ‘banana’, but I don’t know when to stop.”
  • Barfulous is “something that would make anyone barf, if only for esthetic reasons.”
  • A bogon is a unit of bososity. Quantom bogodynamics is the theory of bogon flux, which is measured with a bogometer and attenuated by a bogon filter. Things can become bogotified or rendered useless. For instance, “if you tighten a nut too hard and strip the threads on the bolt, the bolt has become bogotified.”
  • Though not in the Jargon File, a bogon’s anti-particle is (or should be) a cluon. But the Jargon File does include an entry for clue-by-four, a “stick with which one whacks an aggressively clueless person.”
  • One variant of can’t happen refers to a situation in which something seemingly impossible and illogical nevertheless occurs.
  • A grumby is “technical incompetent who impedes the progress of real work.”
  • Hanlon’s Razor is “similar to Occam’s Razor, that reads ‘Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.’
  • Microsloth Windows (or any of {Microshift, Macroshaft, Microsuck} Windows is a “thirty-two bit extension and graphical shell to a sixteen-bit patch to an eight-bit operating system originally coded for a four-bit microprocessor which was written by a two-bit company that can’t stand one bit of competition.”
  • A one-banana problem is one so obviously simple that it could be solved by a trained monkey.
  • Snarf and barf is essentially hacker (self) plagiarism.
  • Sporf! is “the sound of a beverage hitting the monitor and/or keyboard after being forced out … via the nose.”
  • Voodoo programming is the faith-based use of code one doesn’t understand in the hopes that it will work anyway. See also wave a dead chicken.
  • You are not expected to understand this is said or written about something “too complicated to bother explaining properly.”

I only skimmed the Jargon File glossary quickly to find those gems. I’m sure there is lots of other good stuff. If you find some, let me know in a comment. Since Ammon Shea won’t do it, we’ll have to collectively write “Reading the Jargon File” ourselves.

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