Chapter 11. 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 before A, except that leading dash is ignored. The case-blindness is a feature, not a bug.

Prefix ** 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 open source 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:

Table 11.1. Abbreviations

abbrev.abbreviation
adj.adjective
adv.adverb
alt.alternate
cav.caveat
conj.conjunction
esp.especially
excl.exclamation
imp.imperative
interj.interjection
n.noun
obs.obsolete
pl.plural
poss.possibly
pref.prefix
prob.probably
prov.proverbial
quant.quantifier
suff.suffix
syn.synonym (or synonymous with)
v.verb (may be transitive or intransitive)
var.variant
vi.intransitive verb
vt.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:

Table 11.2. Origins

Amateur Packet RadioA technical culture of ham-radio sites using AX.25 and TCP/IP for wide-area networking and BBS systems.
BerkeleyUniversity of California at Berkeley
BBNBolt, Beranek & Newman
Cambridgethe university in England (not the city in Massachusetts where MIT happens to be located!)
CMUCarnegie-Mellon University
CommodoreCommodore Business Machines
DECThe Digital Equipment Corporation (now HP).
FairchildThe Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group
FidoNetSee the FidoNet entry
IBMInternational Business Machines
MITMassachusetts 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
NRLNaval Research Laboratories
NYUNew York University
OEDThe Oxford English Dictionary
PurduePurdue University
SAILStanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (at Stanford University)
SIFrom Système International, the name for the standard abbreviations of metric nomenclature used in the sciences
StanfordStanford University
SunSun Microsystems
TMRCSome 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
UCLAUniversity of California, Los Angeles
UKthe United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)
UsenetSee the Usenet entry
WPIWorcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s
WWWThe World-Wide-Web.
XEROX PARCXEROX's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering research in user interface design and networking
YaleYale University

Other etymology abbreviations such as Unix and 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.