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Awesome Naming


There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.

― Phil Karlton

Concepts in computer science are usually nothing tangible so it's no surprise that naming things is hard. Nevertheless, we do come up with clever, creative and funny names. Some of them so established, we never pause and admire.

This is a curated list for when naming things is done right.


Data Structures and Algorithms

  • Brute force - Violence is actually almost always a solution but not a very clever one.
  • Greedy algorithm - An algorithm that finds a solution by always picking the currently best looking option without thinking too much about past and future decisions.
  • Hill climbing - Starting somewhere in the hilly "landscape" of solutions you go in the direction of steepest ascent until reaching the top of a hill. You might miss higher hills though.
  • Israeli Queue - A type of priority queue and a reference to the infamously unorganized queues in Israel. Here items can cut in line when they have already waiting friends.
  • Stack - Like with a stack of pancakes you can only add and remove items from the top of this data structure.
  • Tree - A hierarchically organized data structure. From the root item the other items branch out into nodes and leaves. A collection of trees is often called a forest.
  • Queue - In this data structure items are always added at the end and removed at the front as if the items were waiting in line.

Design Patterns and Anti Patterns

  • Adapter - Allows classes with incompatible interfaces to work together by wrapping its own interface around that of an already existing class.
  • Facade - Analogous to a facade in architecture, a facade is an object that serves as a front-facing interface masking more complex underlying structure.
  • Promise - A representation of a result that is available in the future, unless there are errors. Like in reality, promises are broken sometimes.
  • Shotgun surgery - A programming antipattern where in a single change you wildly add code everywhere in your codebase.


  • fold - Like a blanket being folded up, this function iterates a collection and in each step combines the current item with everything that has already been folded.
  • trampoline - Continuously runs functions which itself return functions. Like a child on a trampoline that returns and bounces back up.
  • zip - Merges two lists into one list of pairs like the interlocking teeth of a zipper.

IT Security

  • Backdoor - A method of bypassing normal authentication in a computer system.
  • Computer virus - A computer program that self replicates by infecting other computer programs similar to the behavior of biological viruses.
  • Cyber hygiene - Steps and practices that users should take to maintain system health and improve online security.
  • Honeypot - Part of a system meant to look like an attractive target but actually helps detect and deflect attackers.
  • Phoning home - When a system (e.g. stolen computer) secretly reports back to a third party other than the current possessor. The name is a reference to the movie E.T.
  • Sandbox - A safe and isolated environment to test unverified programs that may contain malicious code.
  • Trojan horse - Malware which misleads users of its true intent. The term is derived from the Ancient Greek story of the deceptive Trojan Horse.

Libraries and Frameworks

  • clooney - A JavaScript library implementing the actor model for concurrent computation. The term is a reference to George Clooney who is also an actor.
  • Puppeteer - A browser automation library. If the browser is the puppet, this is the puppeteer.
  • Uglify - A JavaScript minifier. Removes everything that makes the code readable and pretty to make it smaller.
  • uppy - A dog themed uploader component. The name is a blend of upload and puppy. It even comes with a crash recovery plugin called Golden Retriever.

Machine Learning

  • Confusion matrix - A tabular summary of a classifiers "confusion", i.e. how often it thought to make correct predictions when it actually didn't.
  • Decision boundary - A boundary dividing the space of possible data points. Here you decide, everything on this side is SPAM, everything on that side is not.

Programming Languages

  • Clojure - A functional language making extensive use of closures but with a j because it's running on the Java virtual machine.
  • C++ - The successor of C indicated by the iconic increment operator ++.

User Interface Design

  • Breadcrumb - Navigational aid allowing users to keep track of their location within programs, documents, or websites. The term is a reference to the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel.
  • Carousel - A kind of animated slideshow looping back on itself.
  • Clipboard - Where you temporarily put files you are working with (i.e. the copy & paste buffer).
  • Desktop - The metaphorical top of the user's desk, upon which objects such as documents and folders of documents can be placed.
  • Hamburger button - A button to toggle a menu. The associated icon resembles a hamburger.
  • Optimistic UI - User interfaces that assume expensive operations will complete successfully thereby improving the perceived performance.
  • Scrolling - Screen content is often less like a book with discrete pages and more like a continuous roll of parchment, i.e. a scroll.

Theoretical Computer Science

  • Clique problem - The problem of finding groups of mutual friends in a network of people with friendship relations. Or more general, finding complete subgraphs.
  • Game of Life - A game world that showcases how astonishing complexity can arise from very simple ingredients.
  • Oracle - A black box that magically gives answers even to undeciable questions like the halting problem.
  • Pumping lemma - The fact that in some formal languages any sufficiently long string can be pumped with repetitions of its substring and the result stays in the same formal language.


  • tldr - Simplified man pages with practical examples.
  • yarn - NodeJS dependency manager.


  • a11y, i18n, k8s, ... - Abbreviating long words by keeping the first and last letter and writing the number of omitted letters in between.
  • ACID vs. BASE - Acronyms describing competing database ideologies (aka. SQL vs. NoSQL).
  • Bottleneck - A central part of a network/application that significantly limits throughput/performance and should ideally be eliminated.
  • Brick - When your device is so corrupted it virtually turns into a brick.
  • camelCase, snake_case, kebab-case - Different case styles where the name illustrates its appearance.
  • Easter egg - A hidden feature especially in video games in reference to the Easter egg hunt.
  • Floating point number - This representation can encode numbers at very different magnitudes with limited amount of digits by letting the radix point float instead of being fixed in place.
  • Framework - In software architecture (like in actual architecture) frameworks provide basic structure to build upon that guide and constrain the further development.
  • Garbage Collector - Part of a program that attempts to find and reclaim garbage pieces of memory not used anymore.
  • Glue Code - Jenga and LEGO bricks don't share the same interface but you can always glue them together.
  • Heisenbug - A bug that seems to disappear or change when one tries to study it. It's a pun on Werner Heisenberg who discovered that the act of observing quantum systems inevitably alters their state.
  • Lazy evaluation - An evaluation stategy which suspends evaluation until it's absolutly necessary and then never does it again.
  • Magic - A magic program/piece of code is doing it's job but nobody knows how. Like in reality, magic doesn't actually exists. Once you understand it, it's not magic anymore.
  • Process starvation - A problem where a process is perpetually denied resources to do its work.
  • Time travel debugging - Stepping back in time through source code to understand execution and sometimes even to change history.
  • Tree shaking - Shake the dependency tree until all the dead parts are falling off and you end up with a nice lean tree.

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