The Jargon File, Version 4.2.2, 20 Aug 2000
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The Jargon File, Version 4.2.2, 20 Aug 2000

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The Project Gutenberg Etext of The New Hacker's Dictionary version 4.2.2 Version 4.0.0 of The New Hacker's Dictionary (a.k.a., The Jargon File) was released as etext #817 in February 1997. This file, version 4.2.2, was derived from the public domain source at http://www.tuxedo.org/jargon Copyright laws are changing all over the world, be sure to check the laws for your country before redistributing these files!!! Please take a look at the important information in this header. We encourage you to keep this file on your own disk, keeping an electronic path open for the next readers. Please do not remove this. This should be the first thing seen when anyone opens the book. Do not change or edit it without written permission. The words are carefully chosen to provide users with the information they need about what they can legally do with the texts. **Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts** **Etexts Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971** *These Etexts Prepared By Hundreds of Volunteers and Donations* Information on contacting Project Gutenberg to get Etexts, and further information is included below. We need your donations. Presently, contributions are only being solicited from people in: Texas, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, and Vermont. As the requirements for other states are met, additions to this list will be made and fund raising will begin in the additional states. These donations should be ...

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The Project Gutenberg Etext of The New Hacker's Dictionary version
4.2.2
Version 4.0.0 of The New Hacker's Dictionary (a.k.a., The Jargon
File) was released as etext #817 in February 1997. This file,
version 4.2.2, was derived from the public domain source at
http://www.tuxedo.org/jargon
Copyright laws are changing all over the world, be sure to check
the laws for your country before redistributing these files!!!
Please take a look at the important information in this header.
We encourage you to keep this file on your own disk, keeping an
electronic path open for the next readers.
Please do not remove this.
This should be the first thing seen when anyone opens the book.
Do not change or edit it without written permission. The words
are carefully chosen to provide users with the information they
need about what they can legally do with the texts.
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Title: The New Hacker's Dictionary version 4.2.2
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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, 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 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 future.
Introduction: The purpose and scope of this File
A Few Terms: Of Slang, Jargon and Techspeak
Revision History: How the File came to be
Jargon Construction: How hackers invent jargon
Hacker Writing Style: How they write
Email Quotes: And the Inclusion ProblemHacker Speech Style: How hackers talk
International Style: Some notes on usage outside the U.S.
Lamer-speak: Crackers, Phreaks, and Lamers
Pronunciation Guide: How to read the pronunciation keys
Other Lexicon Conventions: How to read lexicon entries
Format for New Entries: How to submit new entries for the File
The Jargon Lexicon: The lexicon itself
Appendix A: Hacker Folklore
Appendix B: A Portrait of J. Random Hacker
Appendix C: Helping Hacker Culture Grow
Bibliography: For your further enjoyment
Node:Introduction, Next:A Few Terms, Previous:Top, Up:Top
Introduction
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 suit. All human
cultures use slang in this threefold way -- as a tool of communication, and of inclusion, and of
exclusion.
Among hackers, though, slang has a subtler aspect, paralleled perhaps in the slang of jazz
musicians and some kinds of fine artists but hard to detect in most technical or scientific cultures;
parts of it are code for shared states of consciousness. There is a whole range of altered states
and problem-solving mental stances basic to high-level hacking which don't fit into conventional
linguistic reality any better than a Coltrane solo or one of Maurits Escher's `trompe l'oeil'
compositions (Escher is a favorite of hackers), and hacker slang encodes these subtleties in
many unobvious ways. As a simple example, take the distinction between a kluge and an
elegant solution, and the differing connotations attached to each. The distinction is not only of
engineering significance; it reaches right back into the nature of the generative processes in
program design and asserts something important about two different kinds of relationship
between the hacker and the hack. Hacker slang is unusually rich in implications of this kind, of
overtones and undertones that illuminate the hackish psyche.
But there is more. Hackers, as a rule, love wordplay and are very conscious and inventive in their
use of language. These traits seem to be common in young children, but the conformity-enforcing
machine we are pleased to call an educational system bludgeons them out of most of us before
adolescence. Thus, linguistic invention in most subcultures of the modern West is a halting and
largely unconscious process. Hackers, by contrast, regard slang formation and use as a game to
be played for conscious pleasure. Their inventions thus display an almost unique combination of
the neotenous enjoyment of language-play with the discrimination of educated and powerfulintelligence. 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 Appendix A. The `outside'
reader's attention is particularly directed to the Portrait of J. Random Hacker in Appendix B.
Appendix C, the 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:Revision History, Previous:Introduction, Up: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 callhackers' 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 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 kluge, cruft,
and foo. We believe specialist lexicographers will find many of the historical notes more than
casually instructive.
Node:Revision History, Next:Jargon Construction, Previous:A Few Terms, Up:Top
Revision History