English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is a word to describe complicated background works, internal works or behind-the-scenes works? These works are complicated and often people wouldn't want to know about it. An example is the complicated internal processes of a machine. All the phrases mentioned sound awkward and long.

share|improve this question
Probably, 'dirty work' or 'back-office'. – user19148 Apr 9 '12 at 21:16
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I've heard most often of avoiding the gruesome details.

share|improve this answer
I've only ever heard "gory details". – chaos Apr 9 '12 at 22:16

My suggestion would be inner workings (or possibly internals).

share|improve this answer
I like your answer, but I think that xenon was referring to different word. – user19148 Apr 9 '12 at 21:27
@Carlo_R. could you elaborate on how my answer doesn't fit xEnOn's question? – zpletan Apr 9 '12 at 22:21
Probably xEnOn was referring to a word or phrase to describe something complicated, difficult to understand. It does not seem that 'internals' has this meaning. – user19148 Apr 9 '12 at 22:36
How about inner workings, which is my first choice? – zpletan Apr 9 '12 at 22:40
The inner work takes a little practice - doing and 'undoing' - before one feels comfortable with it. It does not seem that xEnOn was referring to similar situation. – user19148 Apr 9 '12 at 22:49

The nuts and bolts of a machine or system refer to its internal workings.

Skunkworks (or skunk works) refers to works being carried out by people in a more or less secret manner, behind the scenes and unofficially.

share|improve this answer

If you want something catchy and don't mind a degree of informality, you could use nitty-gritty.

share|improve this answer

Infrastructure ("An underlying base or foundation; ... basic facilities, services and installations ...") is sometimes used to denote the foundations, underpinnings, and inner workings suggested in the question.

share|improve this answer

If you really want some conciseness and informal tone is okay, you will entirely get the message across with guts.

share|improve this answer

I think you're talking about "backstage" stuff.

share|improve this answer

The answer could be "working in the trenches".

As Merriam Webster say "... or level at which an activity is carried on in a manner likened to trench warfare - often used in the phrase «activists working in the trenches»".

share|improve this answer
Your answer implies that the work is physically difficult or unpleasant. What I think the OP is after is a word or phrase to describe something complicated. That is, difficult to understand. – John Y Apr 9 '12 at 22:04
@John Y - You are right. Andrew's answer is the better answer. – user19148 Apr 9 '12 at 22:15

I think mechanics would work for what you describe.

Mechanics is defined as the working parts of a machine; or the technical aspects of something; or the functional aspect of a system, such as "the mechanics of blood circulation."

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.