Cut the cruft

Crud, yes, but ‘cruft’? Another word that was new to me this week

Crud, yes, but ‘cruft’? Another word that was new to me this week, found in The Guardian: ‘Fill databases of valuable customer information with rubbish, to let the valuable names hide among the cruft.’ My big Collins dictionary (old-tech, paper and a weight), the British National Corpus and Cobuild all drew a blank (apart from the inevitable dog show), but Webcorp led first to a site which, in February 2007, still felt it needed to use quotation marks and explain the word in brackets as ‘unnecessary code’. Then the links led to the ever-useful Wikipedia, where we learn: ‘In hacker jargon, cruft describes areas of something which are badly designed, poorly implemented or redundant’. There’s an interesting suggested etymology from Harvard University’s Cruft Laboratory: ‘if the place filled with useless machinery is called Cruft Hall, the machinery itself must be cruft’. The links goes on, as the page reminds me of the term backronym – something for another time?

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