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GREMLIN (unedited)

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GREMLIN (unedited)

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue May 29, 2012 6:42 am

• gremlin •

Pronunciation: grem-lin • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A mischievous sprite imagined to cause the inexplicable problems in the real and virtual machinery of technology.

Notes: Today's word sounds like an ancient player in Celtic mythology, perhaps a people in one of Tolkien's tales of ancient England. You might be surprised to know that the term is very recent, invented by the flyers of the Royal Air Force to explain otherwise inexplicable glitches in the operation of their aircraft. It was first noticed in print only in 1941. In the early 60s it was shortened to gremmy to refer to young, inexperienced surfers.

In Play: The gremlins of air space have moved into cyberspace, where they are often the only explanation of lost e-mail or other misbehavior of our Internet connections: "I received your e-mail alright but the attachment was snatched by the gremlins of cyberspace." You must have discovered that some software applications do not perform unless you carry out an extra step that your friends and colleagues to not have to: "There is a gremlin in my computer that won't allow my browser to come up unless I hold my right ear with my left hand, close one eye, and hold down the letter "x" as I click the browser icon."

Word History: Although today's word first emerged during World War II, evidence suggests a predecessor was in circulation among the Royal Air Force a bit earlier. In the 1920s it was used to refer to anyone saddled with a menial task but that sense never quite caught on. Charles Graves wrote in The Thin Blue Line (1941) that the word referred to goblins that clambered out of Fremlin beer bottles, a popular beer among RAF pilots in India and the Middle East before World War II. Get it? Goblin + Fremlin = gremlin. Other speculations have included an unlikely dialectal survival of Old English gremman "to anger, vex" + the -lin of goblin, or Irish gruaimin "bad-tempered little fellow". I rather like the last explanation, though there is no evidence to support it.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Tue May 29, 2012 6:09 pm

The gremlins were ever present devils in the WW II American Army Air Corps. When anything went wrong, a gremlin was blamed. Aircraft maintenance manuals were filled with drawings of gremlins gumming up the works in engines, rudders, weapons and all of the parts of an aircraft. The watchword was to get out the gremlins before the flight crew takes over the plane. I read the manuals as a child and aspired to be an aircraft crew chief. That never got off the ground for me.

One of my uncles was crew chief of a flying fortress maintenance crew. He was in England for the duration of the air war with Germany. He never sent an airplane out that didn’t make it back to base. Flight crews clamored to have his maintenance crew prep their plane. He was much older than the other airmen and they thought of him as a father figure.
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Postby Slava » Tue May 29, 2012 6:19 pm

Your aspirations never got off the ground. Good one here, PH.
Life is like playing chess with chessmen who each have thoughts and feelings and motives of their own.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Jun 06, 2012 12:18 pm

And of course there was/is the movie "Gremlins".
The one in the microwave always comes to mind.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Jun 06, 2012 6:32 pm

I didn't see the Grimlin movies. I just now read about them in Wickipedia and I don't think I missed much.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 1:43 pm

Miss?
nary a thing, nary a thing.
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