Glork! A Glossary for Gweeps

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Gweep: hacker suffering from overwork.

Phrog: objectionable person, between a turkey and a toad.

Spazz: to behave erratically.

Other words that already exist outside the computer world have been given crisp new meanings. "Vanilla," for example, is now synonymous with ordinary. "Garbage collection" has been shortened to G.C. and turned into a euphemistic verb: "I'm going to G.C. my desk." "Rape" has broadened to mean violence to a program.

These images of trouble are ubiquitous in computerese. When the computer is doing nothing, it is described as catatonic; when it is working badly, it is said to be chomping or producing gubbish (a combination of garbage and rubbish); when it gets still worse, it is "pessimal," as any pessimist would know; when it gives off smoke, the program is considered fried; and when everything breaks down, that is called crashing. To complain about any of this is "to gritch."

This new language often displays a youthfully exuberant sense of the absurd. Thus "moby," meaning large, is said to derive from Melville's Moby Dick, though some say from Moby Pickle. And "bogus," which used to be squealed by Evelyn Waugh debutantes, has now flowered into bogosity, and even into autobogophobia, a fear of becoming bogotified.

Some of this wit can become exotic indeed, as in "the -p convention," which consists of adding the letter p to a word to denote a predicate. Thus "Food-p?" means "Are you hungry?" Or "State of the world-p?" might elicit a literal "Yes, the world is O.K.," but the hackers acclaim a nonsense reply: "Yes, the world has a state." The classic pun involves a hacker who wanted to know whether a neighbor would like to share a bowl of soup big enough to feed two and asked, "Split-p soup?"

In a category all by itself is "real world." The hackers define this with disdain as "the location of non-programmers" and "the location of the status quo." —By Otto Friedrich

* Ada is named in honor of Lord Byron's science-minded daughter Ada, Countess of Lovelace, whose friend and collaborator Charles Babbage was the eccentric genius of the Analytical Engine. She also lives on in what is known as Lady Lovelace's Objection, which refers not to any romantic advances by Babbage but to the age-old question of whether a machine can be made to think. Objected Lady Lovelace: "The Analytical Engine has no pretensions to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform."

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