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Node:Top, Next:[2]Introduction, Previous:[3](dir), Up:[4](dir)
#======= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 4.2.2, 20 AUG 2000 =======#

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 4.2.2" or "The
on-line hacker Jargon File, version 4.2.2, 20 AUG 2000".)

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 [5]esr@snark.thyrsus.com

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
* [6]Introduction: The purpose and scope of this File
* [7]A Few Terms: Of Slang, Jargon and Techspeak
* [8]Revision History: How the File came to be
* [9]Jargon Construction: How hackers invent jargon
* [10]Hacker Writing Style: How they write
* [11]Email Quotes: And the Inclusion Problem
* [12]Hacker Speech Style: How hackers talk
* [13]International Style: Some notes on usage outside the U.S.
* [14]Lamer-speak: Crackers, Phreaks, and Lamers
* [15]Pronunciation Guide: How to read the pronunciation keys
* [16]Other Lexicon Conventions: How to read lexicon entries
* [17]Format for New Entries: How to submit new entries for the File
* [18]The Jargon Lexicon: The lexicon itself
* [19]Appendix A: Hacker Folklore
* [20]Appendix B: A Portrait of J. Random Hacker
* [21]Appendix C: Helping Hacker Culture Grow
* [22]Bibliography: For your further enjoyment

Node:Introduction, Next:[23]A Few Terms, Previous:[24]Top, Up:[25]Top


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 40 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 [26]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 [27]kluge and an [28]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.

Hacker 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 slang definitions.

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 [29]Appendix A. The `outside' reader's attention is particularly
directed to the Portrait of J. Random Hacker in [30]Appendix B.
Appendix C, the [31]Bibliography, lists some 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.

Node:A Few Terms, Next:[32]Revision History,
Previous:[33]Introduction, Up:[34]Top

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 hacker slang is traditionally `the jargon'. When
talking about the jargon there is therefore no convenient way to
distinguish it from what a linguist would call hackers' jargon -- the
formal vocabulary they learn from textbooks, technical papers, and

To make a confused situation worse, the line between hacker 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-technical subcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc).
* `jargon': without qualifier, denotes informal `slangy' language
peculiar to or predominantly found among hackers -- the subject of
this lexicon.
* `techspeak': the formal technical vocabulary of programming,
computer science, electronics, and other fields connected to

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 [35]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.

Despite these problems, the organized collection of jargon-related
oral history for the new compilations has enabled us to put to rest
quite a number of folk etymologies, place credit where credit is due,
and illuminate the early history of many important hackerisms such as
[36]kluge, [37]cruft, and [38]foo. We believe specialist
lexicographers will find many of the historical notes more than
casually instructive.

Node:Revision History, Next:[39]Jargon Construction, Previous:[40]A
Few Terms, Up:[41]Top

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 ([42]frob and some senses of [43]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, [44]FTPed 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 `>' caused versioning under
ITS) 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 coinages.

In Spring 1981, a hacker named Charles Spurgeon got a large chunk of
the File published in Stewart Brand's "CoEvolution Quarterly" (issue
29, 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 permanent.

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 [45]TWENEX
system rather than a host for the AI hackers' beloved [46]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 [47]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 standard.

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 hacker 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 [48]Some 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

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

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 [49]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

Eric S. Raymond [50] J. R. Hacker wrote:
>I recently 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 desired.

Yeah, I tried one out too.

#ifdef FLAME
Hasn't anyone told those idiots that you can't get
decent bogon suppression with AFJ filters at today's
net volumes?
#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
[127]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."

The top section in the example, with > at the left margin, is an
example of an inclusion convention we'll discuss below.

More recently, following on the huge popularity of the World Wide Web,
pseudo-HTML markup has become popular for similar purposes:

Your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberries!

You'll even see this with an HTML-style modifier:

You seem well-suited for a career in government.

Another recent (late 1990s) construction now common on USENET seems to
be borrowed from Perl. It consists of using a dollar sign before an
uppercased form of a word or acronym to suggest any [128]random member
of the class indicated by the word. Thus: `$PHB' means "any random
member of the class `Pointy-Haired Boss'".

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.

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. A good one is that it encourages honesty
and tends to break down hierarchical authority relationships; a bad
one 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.

Node:Email Quotes, Next:[129]Hacker Speech Style, Previous:[130]Hacker
Writing Style, Up:[131]Top

Email Quotes and Inclusion Conventions

One area where 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 a practice 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.

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.

Inclusion practice is still evolving, and disputes over the `correct'
inclusion style occasionally lead to [132]holy wars.

Most netters view an inclusion as a promise that comment on it will
immediately follow. The preferred, conversational style looks like
> relevant excerpt 1
response to excerpt
> relevant excerpt 2
response to excerpt
> relevant excerpt 3
response to excerpt

or for short messages like this:
> entire message
response to message

Thanks to poor design of some PC-based mail agents, one will
occasionally see the entire quoted message after the response, like
response to message
> entire message

but this practice is strongly deprecated.

Though > remains the standard inclusion leader, | is occasionally used
for extended quotations where original variations in indentation are
being retained (one mailer even combines these and uses |>). 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 super-user).

Node:Hacker Speech Style, Next:[133]International Style,
Previous:[134]Email Quotes, Up:[135]Top

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 may seem to
be asking the opposite question from "Are you going?", and so to merit
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', German `doch', or Dutch `jawel' - a word with
which one could unambiguously answer `yes' to a negative question.
(See also [136]mu)

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 them.

In a related vein, hackers sometimes make a game of answering
questions containing logical connectives with a strictly literal
rather than colloquial interpretation. 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!").

Node:International Style, Next:[137]Lamer-speak, Previous:[138]Hacker
Speech Style, Up:[139]Top

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 hackish'. 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 [140]Commonwealth Hackish
reporting some general phonetic and vocabulary differences from U.S.

Hackers in Western Europe and (especially) Scandinavia report that
they 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.

On the other hand, English often gives rise to grammatical and
vocabulary mutations in the native language. For example, Italian
hackers often use the nonexistent verbs `scrollare' (to scroll) and
`deletare' (to delete) rather than native Italian `scorrere' and
`cancellare'. Similarly, the English verb `to hack' has been seen
conjugated in Swedish. In German, many Unix terms in English are
casually declined as if they were German verbs - thus:
mount/mounten/gemountet; grep/grepen/gegrept; fork/forken/geforkt;
core dump/core-dumpen, core-gedumpt. And Spanish-speaking hackers use
`linkar' (to link), `debugear' (to debug), and `lockear' (to lock).

European hackers report that this happens partly because the English
terms make finer distinctions than are available in their native
vocabularies, and partly because deliberate language-crossing makes
for amusing wordplay.

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

Node:Lamer-speak, Next:[141]Pronunciation Guide,
Previous:[142]International Style, Up:[143]Top

Crackers, Phreaks, and Lamers

From the early 1980s onward, a flourishing culture of local,
MS-DOS-based bulletin boards developed separately from Internet
hackerdom. The BBS culture has, as its seamy underside, a stratum of
`pirate boards' inhabited by [144]crackers, phone phreaks, and
[145]warez d00dz. These people (mostly teenagers running IBM-PC clones
from their bedrooms) have developed their own characteristic jargon,
heavily influenced by skateboard lingo and underground-rock slang.

Though crackers often call themselves `hackers', they aren't (they
typically have neither significant programming ability, nor Internet
expertise, nor experience with UNIX or other true multi-user systems).
Their vocabulary has little overlap with hackerdom's. Nevertheless,
this lexicon covers much of it so the reader will be able to
understand what goes by on bulletin-board systems.

Here is a brief guide to cracker and [146]warez d00dz usage:
* Misspell frequently. The substitutions
phone => fone
freak => phreak
are obligatory.
* Always substitute `z's for `s's. (i.e. "codes" -> "codez"). The
substitution of 'z' for 's' has evolved so that a 'z' is bow
systematically put at the end of words to denote an illegal or
cracking connection. Examples : Appz, passwordz, passez, utilz,
MP3z, distroz, pornz, sitez, gamez, crackz, serialz, downloadz,
FTPz, etc.
* Type random emphasis characters after a post line (i.e. "Hey
* Use the emphatic `k' prefix ("k-kool", "k-rad", "k-awesome")
* Abbreviate compulsively ("I got lotsa warez w/ docs").
* Substitute `0' for `o' ("r0dent", "l0zer").

These traits are similar to those of [147]B1FF, who originated as a
parody of naive [148]BBS users; also of his latter-day equivalent
[149]Jeff K.. Occasionally, this sort of distortion may be used as
heavy sarcasm by a real hacker, as in:
> I got X Windows running under Linux!

d00d! u R an 31337 hax0r

The only practice resembling this in actual hacker usage is the
substitution of a dollar sign of `s' in names of products or service
felt to be excessively expensive, e.g. Compu$erve, Micro$oft.

For further discussion of the pirate-board subculture, see [150]lamer,
[151]elite, [152]leech, [153]poser, [154]cracker, and especially
[155]warez d00dz, [156]banner site, [157]ratio site, [158]leech mode.

Node:Pronunciation Guide, Next:[159]Other Lexicon Conventions,
Previous:[160]Lamer-speak, Up:[161]Top

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
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). If no
accent is given, the word is pronounced with equal accentuation on
all syllables (this is common for abbreviations).
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". The digraph 'gh' is the aspirated g+h of "bughouse" or
"ragheap" (rare in English).
3. Uppercase letters are pronounced as their English letter names;
thus (for example) /H-L-L/ is equivalent to /aych el el/. /Z/ may
be pronounced /zee/ or /zed/ depending on your local dialect.
4. Vowels are represented as follows:

back, that

father, palm (see note)

far, mark

flaw, caught

bake, rain

less, men

easy, ski

their, software

trip, hit

life, sky

block, stock (see note)

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

The glyph /*/ 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/.

Note that the above table reflects mainly distinctions found in
standard American English (that is, the neutral dialect spoken by TV
network announcers and typical of educated speech in the Upper
Midwest, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Philadelphia). However, we
separate /o/ from /ah/, which tend to merge in standard American. This
may help readers accustomed to accents resembling British Received

The intent of this scheme is to permit as many readers as possible to
map the pronunciations into their local dialect by ignoring some
subset of the distinctions we make. Speakers of British RP, for
example, can smash terminal /r/ and all unstressed vowels. Speakers of
many varieties of southern American will automatically map /o/ to
/aw/; and so forth. (Standard American makes a good reference dialect
for this purpose because it has crisp consonants and more vowel
distinctions than other major dialects, and tends to retain
distinctions between unstressed vowels. It also happens to be what
your editor speaks.)

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

Node:Other Lexicon Conventions, Next:[162]Format for New Entries,
Previous:[163]Pronunciation Guide, Up:[164]Top

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 bug.

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.

Prefixed ** is used as linguists do; to mark examples of incorrect

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




















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:

Amateur Packet Radio
A technical culture of ham-radio sites using AX.25 and TCP/IP
for wide-area networking and BBS systems.

University of California at Berkeley

Bolt, Beranek & Newman

the university in England (not the city in Massachusetts where
MIT happens to be located!)

Carnegie-Mellon University

Commodore Business Machines

The Digital Equipment Corporation (now Compaq).

The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group

See the [165]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 Système 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 [166]Usenet entry

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active
community of PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s

The World-Wide-Web.

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 [167]Unix and [168]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 jargon.

Node:Format for New Entries, Next:[169]The Jargon Lexicon,
Previous:[170]Other Lexicon Conventions, Up:[171]Top

Format For New Entries

You can mail submissions for the Jargon File to

We welcome new jargon, and corrections to or amplifications of
existing entries. You can improve your submission's chances of being
included by adding background information on user population and years
of currency. References to actual usage via URLs and/or DejaNews
pointers are particularly welcomed.

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.

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.

An HTML version of the File is available at
http://www.tuxedo.org/jargon. Please send us URLs for materials
related to the entries, so we can enrich the File's link structure.

The Jargon File will be regularly maintained and made available for
browsing on the World Wide Web, and will include a version number.
Read it, pass it around, contribute -- this is your monument!

Node:The Jargon Lexicon, Next:[173]Appendix A, Previous:[174]Format
for New Entries, Up:[175]Top

The Jargon Lexicon

* [176]= 0 =:
* [177]= A =:
* [178]= B =:
* [179]= C =:
* [180]= D =:
* [181]= E =:
* [182]= F =:
* [183]= G =:
* [184]= H =:
* [185]= I =:
* [186]= J =:
* [187]= K =:
* [188]= L =:
* [189]= M =:
* [190]= N =:
* [191]= O =:
* [192]= P =:
* [193]= Q =:
* [194]= R =:
* [195]= S =:
* [196]= T =:
* [197]= U =:
* [198]= V =:
* [199]= W =:
* [200]= X =:
* [201]= Y =:
* [202]= Z =:

Node:= 0 =, Next:[203]= A =, Up:[204]The Jargon Lexicon

= 0 =

* [205]0:
* [206]1TBS:
* [207]120 reset:
* [208]2:
* [209]404:
* [210]404 compliant:
* [211]4.2:
* [212]@-party:

Node:0, Next:[213]1TBS, Up:[214]= 0 =


Numeric zero, as opposed to the letter `O' (the 15th letter of the
English alphabet). In their unmodified forms they look a lot alike,
and various kluges invented to make them visually distinct have
compounded the confusion. If your zero is center-dotted and letter-O
is not, or if letter-O looks almost rectangular but zero looks more
like an American football stood on end (or the reverse), you're
probably looking at a modern character display (though the dotted zero
seems to have originated as an option on IBM 3270 controllers). If
your zero is slashed but letter-O is not, you're probably looking at
an old-style ASCII graphic set descended from the default typewheel on
the venerable ASR-33 Teletype (Scandinavians, for whom Ø is a letter,
curse this arrangement). (Interestingly, the slashed zero long
predates computers; Florian Cajori's monumental "A History of
Mathematical Notations" notes that it was used in the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries.) If letter-O has a slash across it and the zero
does not, your display is tuned for a very old convention used at IBM
and a few other early mainframe makers (Scandinavians curse this
arrangement even more, because it means two of their letters collide).
Some Burroughs/Unisys equipment displays a zero with a reversed slash.
Old CDC computers rendered letter O as an unbroken oval and 0 as an
oval broken at upper right and lower left. And yet another convention
common on early line printers left zero unornamented but added a tail
or hook to the letter-O so that it resembled an inverted Q or cursive
capital letter-O (this was endorsed by a draft ANSI standard for how
to draw ASCII characters, but the final standard changed the
distinguisher to a tick-mark in the upper-left corner). Are we
sufficiently confused yet?

Node:1TBS, Next:[215]120 reset, Previous:[216]0, Up:[217]= 0 =

1TBS // n.

The "One True Brace Style"; see [218]indent style.

Node:120 reset, Next:[219]2, Previous:[220]1TBS, Up:[221]= 0 =

120 reset /wuhn-twen'tee ree'set/ n.

[from 120 volts, U.S. wall voltage] To cycle power on a machine in
order to reset or unjam it. Compare [222]Big Red Switch, [223]power

Node:2, Next:[224]404, Previous:[225]120 reset, Up:[226]= 0 =

2 infix.

In translation software written by hackers, infix 2 often represents
the syllable to with the connotation `translate to': as in dvi2ps (DVI
to PostScript), int2string (integer to string), and texi2roff (Texinfo

Book of the day: