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If not, what word do I mean to use when I use "show-stopper" negatively?

It seems that in high-tech culture a show-stopper is a development problem that prevents forward progress, or an unacceptable outcome. (At least in a non-english-speaking high-tech culture.)

My wife called me on it this morning when I used show-stopper in this context.

When I stopped to think about it, I couldn't think of the word or phrase I should be using that I seem to have confused with show-stopper.

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Wait, what is your question? Of course, as something that stops progress it does have a negative connotation, similarly to roadblock or obstacle, just as you wrote it. So what are you asking about? –  SF. Jun 13 '12 at 8:42
    
@SF The point, as Dr.Dredel says below, is that a "show-stopper" is in essence a positive phrase- something so amazing the show simply cannot continue afterwards. Maybe it is a British phrase. –  Urbycoz Jun 13 '12 at 14:54
    
+1 I just wrote a paper and a reviewer mentioned that I'd used the phrase "show-stopping" incorrectly. I've always heard it with a negative connotation, mostly in software development. E.g., "this bug is a show-stopper." I don't recall hearing it with a positive connotation, but Googling suggests that it's usually positive. Today I Learned. –  Joshua Taylor Jun 10 at 18:50

2 Answers 2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Showstopper Show-Stopper in the theatrical sense is an expression referring to something truly dazzling. "The triple somersault in the dance that starts the second act is a show stopper"

The show has to stop for applause... it can't keep going if the crowd is on its feet cheering.

Of course you're correct that show stopper in the world of technology and business is an impediment to progress which must be cleared to proceed, and in that sense is entirely negative.

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+1 I just wrote a paper and a reviewer mentioned that I'd used the phrase "show-stopping" incorrectly. I've always heard it with a negative connotation, mostly in software development. E.g., "this bug is a show-stopper." I don't recall hearing it with a positive connotation, but Googling suggests that it's usually positive. Today I Learned. –  Joshua Taylor Jun 10 at 18:51

I have never heard the term showstopper used in the way you used it. I would have used the word bottleneck, which has a definition of "a hindrance to progress or production" or "a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources."

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I assure you it is used. Bottleneck is something that considerably slows the progress. Showstopper stops it entirely until it is removed. –  SF. Jun 13 '12 at 12:45
    
@SF., Do you have a source you can cite? I would like to learn this definition. –  JLG Jun 13 '12 at 12:48
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catb.org/jargon/html/S/showstopper.html Google: showstopper bugzilla if you want to spot the usage "in the wild". –  SF. Jun 13 '12 at 14:33
    
@SF., Thank you. I feel like I learned something new. –  JLG Jun 13 '12 at 16:33

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