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Any idea how the moderately gruesome phrase iron out bugs originated? It brings a wonderfully vivid picture to my mind's eye!

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is a combination of two separate metaphorical ideas that are not etymologically linked.

The first - iron out - is a phrasal verb meaning to resolve.

The second - bugs - refers to a malfunction of computer hardware, and its origins are debatable.

Combine the two, and you arrive at resolve computer malfunctions.

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I don't know about debatable -- The story of a moth caught in a relay and found by computer pioneer Grace Hopper is an article of faith to some computer scientists. –  pavium Jul 22 '11 at 13:50
4  
@pavium That is the apocryphal explanation, and makes for a nice story, but the usage dates to far earlier than that. –  HaL Jul 22 '11 at 14:29
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That's the thing about faith: it's often irrational. –  pavium Jul 22 '11 at 14:32

Iron out bugs means, basically, to debug. It comes from a conjunction of the phrase iron out, figurative for resolve (a problem), and the programming term bug.

According to dictionary.com:

-Verb phrase
26. iron out,
a. to iron or press (an item of clothing or the like).
b. to remove (wrinkles) from by ironing.
c. to resolve or clear up (difficulties, disagreements, etc.): The problem was ironed out months ago.

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protected by RegDwigнt Dec 30 '11 at 15:50

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