In my company, I've been asked to generate reports about accounts (for example) that have abnormal traits (less than 1%, for example). They want to know where these abnormal cases are so they can go fix them, but it's too time consuming to manually check until they find them. So they asked me to find these cases and report on them.

Some people try to call it exception handling; but exception handling is already a well-define phrase in computing, so it can't be used.

I'm trying to come up with a phrase to describe this type of hunt. Is there a better phrase than "whack-a-mole" or "exception handling"?

Also, I'm new here, so I don't really understand which tags go where. Thank you!

  • What about ' Anomaly Detection' ? In data mining, anomaly detection (or outlier detection) is the identification of items, events or observations which do not conform to an expected pattern or other items in a dataset.
    – user66974
    Sep 2, 2014 at 21:20
  • That would describe the items, but I was hoping for something that would also describe the context of "situations that demand action" in a similar way the game "whack-a-mole" does.
    – user38858
    Sep 2, 2014 at 21:26
  • If you consider that it has come into use in some of the most formal environments (see wikipedia link), "Whack-a-mole" might be the most acceptable, concise and recognizable way to describe this. I would have no reluctance to use the term in a formal document or in a briefing to a very senior government official (maybe with scare quotes), and I can attest to its use under such circumstances. Sep 3, 2014 at 2:36
  • Would "extinguishing fires seemingly caused by random spontaneous combustion" work?
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 3, 2014 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


Previously-mentioned anomaly detection is a good suggestion. From en.wiktionary, anomaly means “A deviation from a rule or from what is regarded as normal”, which ought to encompass “accounts that have abnormal traits”.

You might also refer to finding, seeking, looking for, patching, or fixing extreme cases or outliers. From en.wiktionary, outlier means “A person or thing away from others or outside its proper place” in one sense, and “A value in a statistical sample which does not fit a pattern that describes most other data points”, in another. An extreme is something that's most remote, or outermost; or something that's “Excessive, or far beyond the norm”.

Less formally, one can refer to plugging leaks or plugging holes in the dike, and to putting out fires or playing fireman, and to preventive or anticipatory amelioration.

  • Patching was exactly the action phrase I needed. "Anomaly patching" will work.
    – user38858
    Sep 3, 2014 at 23:19

How about using the word spurious? It implies that something is not "normal" and should be investigated further.

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