The “Jargon Watch” Terms That Stuck with Me


For Borg Like Me, I thought it would be fun to look through the entire corpus of my 12 years of editing Wired’s “Jargon Watch” column and identify the terms that actually become a part of my everyday vocabulary. Here are 23 terms that I still use on a fairly regular basis.

Backgrounding: The practice of not giving someone your full attention while multitasking. Occurs frequently during phone conversations when one party is reading email or surfing the Net. Dead giveaways; quiet typing, monotoned and equally-spaced “Uh-huh…uh-huh.”

Bit Flip: A 180-degree personality change. “Jim did a major bit flip and became a born-again Christian.”

Bio-break: Techie euphemism for using the toilet.

Blamestorming: Sitting around in a group discussing why a deadline was missed, or why a project failed, and who was responsible.

Blow My Buffer: Euphemism for spacing out or losing one’s train of thought. Similarly, “blowing your buffer” occurs when the person you’re speaking with won’t let you get a word in edgewise or has just said something so astonishing that your train of thought gets derailed. “Damn, I just blew my buffer!”

Brain Fart: A byproduct of a bloated mind producing information effortlessly. A burst of useful information. “I know you’re busy on the Microsoft story, but could you give us a brain fart on the Mitnik bust?” Variation of old hacker slang that had more negative connotations.

Egosurfing: Scanning search engines, articles, or book indexes looking for mentions of your own name.

Frankenedit: A gruesome job of editing a writer’s work by a hurried editor. The frankenedited piece is usually returned with a note asking the writer to suture it back together to breath life back into it (by the next morning).

Geekosphere: The area surrounding one’s computer where trinkets, personal mementos, toys, and “monitor pets” are displayed. A place where computer geeks show their “colors.”

Going Cyrillic: When a graphical display starts to glitch out, to fail and to display garbage. “This thing just went Cyrillic on me!”

Hand Salsa: The slimy substance invariably left on game controllers after a round of high-stress gaming. “Sure you can play, if you don’t mind the hand salsa.”

Floodgaters: Individuals who send email or text messages, and after receiving only a short, slightly favorable response, begin flooding you with multiple messages of little or no interest.

Interrupt-Driven: Used to describe someone who moves through the workday responding to a series of interruptions rather than the work goals originally set.

PEBCAK: Tech support/hacker shorthand for “Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard.” A way of indicating that there’s nothing wrong with the computer – it’s the user who’s clueless.

Percussive Maintenance: The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.

Seagull Manager: A superior who flies in, makes a lot of noise, shits all over everything, and then leaves.

Serendipity Search: An Internet search in which you end up finding interesting and valuable things that have nothing to do with your original search. Searching willy-nilly. “I found this really cool site on Tiki collecting during an hour-long serendipity search.”

Shoulder Surfing: Looking over someone’s shoulder to steal his or her credit card or phone card number or computer password.

Vampire Time (VT): A schedule in which one sleeps all day and then haunts clubs, coffee houses, or works all night until dawn. Refers to writers, artists, slackers, club kids, and other bohemian types who rarely see daylight.

Whack-a-Mole: The “game” one has to play to quickly close interstitial ads and other pop-up windows on some commercial websites. These pages will sometimes generate new windows every time you close a previous one, creating a situation similar to the popular arcade game Whack-a-Mole.

Warnock’s Dilemma:
The act of deciding whether the lack of response to a comment in an online discussion is because of its brilliance (i.e. there’s nothing to add) or because of its stupidity (it doesn’t deserve comment). Named after Brian Warnock, who first described the condition on a Perl mailing list.

YMMV: (Your Mileage May Vary) A popular qualifier simple meaning: “The outcome may be different under different conditions.” Often used in a humorous way: “This freeware program worked fine on my machine, but YMMV.”

Yuppie Food Coupons: The ubiquitous $20 bills spit out of ATMs everywhere. Often used when trying to split the bill after a meal: “Everyone owes $8, but all we have are yuppie food coupons.”

Pre-order Borg Like Me here.

Published by Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and "lazy person's memoir," called Borg Like Me.

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