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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Putting the definition of punt at the end of my last entry got me skimming through the glossary of my current edition of How to Get Around MIT (alternatively “How To GAMIT” or “HoToGAMIT”). Since you’re reading blogs of MIT students and alums, you should learn a bunch of the jargon that we MIT folks sometimes use (a small selection from How To GAMIT’s glossary)…


armadillo – A small set of drawers common to a select few dorms.

beaver – The MIT mascot, engineer of the animal kingdom.

Bruno – A unit of volume resulting from a piano falling six stories onto Amherst Alley from the roof of Baker House.

CP – Campus Police.

cruft – Old equipment; junk. Being able to take cruft again and make it work again, or do something new and useful, is a badge of honor.

drop – (1) v. To de-register for a subject during a term. (2) n. Network access point. (3) n. Type of sodium experiment performed by Third East.

Flammschmeisser – A gas-fired device used for spreading burning iron particles when creating a hoax crop circle.

FSILG – Fraternity, Sorority, or Independent Living Group.

GIR – General Institute Requirement. A class that all undergraduates must pass in order to get their degree.

hack – (1) n. A trick or prank. For example, having a balloon pop out of the field in the middle of the Hahvahd-Yale football game or getting elected Undergraduate Association President are fine hacks. (2) n. An inelegant shortcut to get something done quickly, for example in a computer program. (3) v. To use or operate something in a manner outside its design or published documentation; see kludge. (4) v. To explore ordinarily inaccessible or unknown places; equivalent to “go hacking”. (5) v. To apply oneself with utmost dedication in order to understand or become proficient in something. Example: a computer hacker. Also connotes fanaticism.

hackern. (1) One who hacks. (2) One who pulls hacks. (3) One who goes hacking.

hosed – Bogged down with work.

IAP – Independent Activities Period. The month of January at MIT, and the most fun time to be on campus.

intuitively obviousaj. (1) Too simpleminded to deserve explanation. (2) More often, too abstruse to explain, if the speaker even understands it at all.

kludge[rhymes with “stooge”] n. (1) A Rube Goldberg-style device which appears unlikely to work but does anyhow. (2) A method by which something is effectively but inelegantly made to perform a function for which it was not designed. (3) Something complex that doesn’t work, e.g., this definition.

Mystery Hunt – The famous annual weekend-long puzzle competition held during IAP (q.v.).

nerd[pronounced “gnurd”] n. (1) Someone with a high level of expertise in an esoteric, usually technical field. A badge of honor at the Institute, e.g., “Nerd Pride”. (2) Someone who studies too much. See tool.

punt – (1) v.t. To determine after analytical deliberation not to do something often academic in nature. (2) v.i. To be in the process of not doing something.


Smoot – A unit of length equal to the height of Oliver Smoot ’62, most commonly used for the Harvard Bridge (364.4 Smoots plus 1 ear).

tomb – An enclosed space, often created when a new building is put next to an old one without fully coordinating the floorplans. They tend to be named by the first hackers who find them.

tool – (1) v. To study. (2) n. One who studies to an extreme. Connotes over-concentration on problem sets. Supertool: an extreme extreme. (3) n. MIT student. Slightly derogatory. See nerd.


Bonus points for using these in your comments, or, even better, as many as possible in one sentence ;)

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