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Joel Spolsky:

We started with Stack Overflow, a Q&A site for programmers about programming questions. StackExchange is an attempt to bring that same technology to other fields besides programming. Cooking, photography, etc. Each of these sites is a StackExchange. Collectively they are the StackExchange Network. So when we say "StackExchange" we mean all these sites, of which there is one big honking granddaddy called Stack Overflow.

The entries in Webster suggest that honking refers to an object making a loud noise, but that meaning seems off in this context.

What does "honking" mean in this context?

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I think this is General Reference - honking - anything large, excessive, or otherwise inordinately disproportionate by almost any measure. Though for me as a Brit, honk is primarily a verb meaning to vomit, so in OP's context I would use stonking. –  FumbleFingers May 29 at 17:49

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's actually separated, if you look at the whole phrase. "Big honking [x]" is a colloquial way of saying very big [x]. Granddaddy, in this sense, just means that it is the precursor to the entire Stack Exchange (Stack Overflow was the original).

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Hmm, weird, dictionary.com do list colloquial entries too, but doesn't seem to have this entry dictionary.reference.com/browse/honking –  Pacerier May 29 at 17:55
    
As a native speaker of SAE, I've always used/heard it said without the trailing velar nasal, as honkin'. –  Andy May 29 at 18:00
    
Btw, is there a (online or not) dictionary that lists honking as "big"? –  Pacerier May 29 at 18:09
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@Pacerier - That's a good honking question! I don't think honking means "big" as much as it means "ol'", as in "big honking truck" = "big ol' truck". I like how the Urban Dictionary defines big ol': A phrase tapped onto a noun giving the object in question more significance, or importance. The object in question does not need to be relatively big or old. In this context, honking could even be regarded as a nice way to say f-ing. –  J.R. May 29 at 18:19
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@Pacerier OneLook.com provides about 20 definitions, the only one for big is waywordradio.org/honking, make of that what you will. Urban Dictionary as General Reference ? ... yeah, if you really can't guess what poopsterbate means. –  Frank May 29 at 18:39

'Honking' refers to winding around and in this case of ...of which there is one big honking granddaddy, it signifies the object to which all others are wound upon.

'Honking' is a term used in watchmaking:

.... a small steel chain is honked to the spring-barrel, it, (fig. 1 and 5) ; at one end it passes round the barrel several times -British encyclopedia; or, Dictionary of arts and ... v.12. Nicholson, William, 1753-1815.

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