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4. Hearing and Language: Hacks 44–52 > 50. Give Big-Sounding Words to Big Conce...

Give Big-Sounding Words to Big Concepts

The sounds of words carry meaning too, as big words for big movements demonstrate.

Steven Pinker, in his popular book on the nature of language, The Language Instinct 1 , encounters the frob-twiddle-tweak continuum as a way of talking about adjusting settings on computers or stereo equipment. The Jargon File, longtime glossary for hacker language, has the following under frobnicate ( http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/F/frobnicate.html ):

Usage: frob, twiddle, and tweak sometimes connote points along a continuum. ‘Frob’ connotes aimless manipulation; twiddle connotes gross manipulation, often a coarse search for a proper setting; tweak connotes fine-tuning. If someone is turning a knob on an oscilloscope, then if he’s carefully adjusting it, he is probably tweaking it; if he is just turning it but looking at the screen, he is probably twiddling it; but if he’s just doing it because turning a knob is fun, he’s frobbing it. 2


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