The New Hacker’s Dictionary version 4.2.2

_________________________________________________________________ Node:Top, Next: Introduction, Previous: (dir), Up: (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,
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 20/8/2000
FREE Audible 30 days

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]
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 future.
* [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 manuals.

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 hacking.

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

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

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 years.

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

This new version casts a wider net than the old Jargon File; its aim is to cover not just AI or PDP-10 hacker culture but all the technical computing cultures wherein the true hacker-nature is manifested. More than half of the entries now derive from [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 world.

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 possessive).

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 this,
> 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 this
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. hackish.

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 English-speakers.
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 Dudes!#!$#$!#!$”).
* Use the emphatic `k’ prefix (“k-kool”, “k-rad”, “k-awesome”) frequently.
* Abbreviate compulsively (“I got lotsa warez w/ docs”). * Substitute `0′ for `o’ (“r0dent”, “l0zer”). * TYPE ALL IN CAPS LOCK, SO IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE YELLING ALL THE TIME.

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

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 Pronunciation.

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 pronunciation’!)
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 usage.

We follow the `logical’ quoting convention described in the Writing Style section above. In addition, we reserve double quotes for actual excerpts of text or (sometimes invented) speech. Scare quotes (which mark a word being used in a nonstandard way), and philosopher’s quotes (which turn an utterance into the string of letters or words that name it) are both rendered with single quotes.
References such as malloc(3) and patch(1) are to Unix facilities (some of which, such as patch(1), are actually freeware distributed over Usenet). The Unix manuals use foo(n) to refer to item foo in section (n) of the manual, where n=1 is utilities, n=2 is system calls, n=3 is C library routines, n=6 is games, and n=8 (where present) is system administration utilities. Sections 4, 5, and 7 of the manuals have changed roles frequently and in any case are not referred to in any of the entries.

Various abbreviations used frequently in the lexicon are summarized here:




















synonym (or synonymous with)

verb (may be transitive or intransitive)

intransitive verb

transitive verb

Where alternate spellings or pronunciations are given, alt. separates two possibilities with nearly equal distribution, while var. prefixes one that is markedly less common than the primary.
Where a term can be attributed to a particular subculture or is known to have originated there, we have tried to so indicate. Here is a list of abbreviations used in etymologies:

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 University)

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 [172]

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 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 cycle.
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