A tech jargon question: A friend thought he once heard a funny (?) jargon word for a device that was put together from faulty parts on purpose, maybe even with the very questionable intention to sell it as an online auction as "broken, but ready to get fixed by someone who knows a little electionics". If you were to buy the device, knowing typical failures and using good troubleshooting skills would not help you much because the device is pretty much a good-looking heap of junk sub-assemblies and has not failed for the reasons things usually fail.

Example: Someone has three bad laser printers of the same brand and model, and lucks out and is able to build two good ones from all the parts and sub-assemblies. Then, everything that's left is taken, being put together into a third, very broken printer and maybe even sold "as is" (very bad, of course), "with need to be fixed" (still bad, because someone intentionally sells junk and not just a device that went bad for just one reason), or "for parts salvaging" (still bad, because someone knowingly offers more bad parts than anybody could reasonably expect from the offer).

Now, ... what's the word for the junk device?

Any chance the word my friend is trying to remember was "diva" or something similar? As in its derogatory/slang meaning - good-looking but often useless - sometimes found with high-nosed personalities, and not limited to the original female context, but also heard when talking about male soccer stars.

  • I suppose the Trojan Horse was the original example of this, if you allow that parts intended to kill could be termed faulty even if they function as designed. ^_^
    – Robusto
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 13:20
  • 2
    Bricolage is the hobby of assembling new things out of junk you have lying around. This seems related, but sinister. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 21:15
  • Hmmm... Trojan Horse seems to fit, almost -- intentionally passing off something defective (or in this case deadly) as something nice.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 22:06
  • A highly related concept is planned obsolescence, where you try to design or manufacture a product defective to force a buyer to replace or upgrade before a quality product would be expected to break. That said, I'm not familiar with any equivalent term for cobbling or scrounging such a product.
    – Patrick M
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 2:47

16 Answers 16


Keeping to the popular use of automobile terminology, a lemon is something (usually a vehicle) the seller knows to be impaired but the buyer believes to be good.


How about a shiny turd, or polished turd ?
(I've heard both variants, while living in the UK. First one is more common.)

Looks good on the outside, inside is another matter.

  • "Polished turd" works well here in the US too -- something that's a steaming pile of crap, but touched up so it looks more attractive than what it actually is. At the end of the day, a polished turd is still a turd. There's also the verb form, "polishing a turd", frequently said of coders who are attempting to patch and fix a program that is hopelessly broken; in this case it's generally meant more to imply that the work being done is pointless, rather than that it's being done with malice.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 22:03
  • @DoktorJ Polishing a turd is actually possible, as the Mythbusters demonstrated a couple of years ago :-)
    – Tonny
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 9:41
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    no one ever said it wasn't possible -- but even though it's polished, it is still a turd isn't it?
    – Doktor J
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 14:20

cut and shut

I suggest you adopt the terminology that is used for cars. This is the term used in the UK. I'm not certain about US terminology.

A ‘cut and shut’ car is one of the biggest dangers to a car buyer. A cut and shut consists of two or more cars welded together. Usually, this happens when a car is damaged enough to be written off by insurers and is patched together with another car to hide the damage.

They are incredibly dangerous because the structural integrity of the car has been altered and can be a deathtrap if it is involved in a collision.


  • 1
    This is really close, but maybe not exactly what I'm looking for. "Cut" refers to the cassis being taken apart and welded together. To stick to the example of cars, I was thinking of a chassis stuffed with a bad clutch, bad gears, a broken air condition and maybe a dashboard with a low-mile odometer. Maybe cut and shut is used for such cars as well, but the process didn't involve cutting.
    – zebonaut
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 8:48
  • 3
    @zebonaut - I think they call that a 'lemon'. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 8:50
  • I think I get it: A sour deal. Would 'lemon' be equally common in BE and AE, as wikipedia suggests, and used outside the context of cars, too? (Also, here are sources: powerwriting.com/vw-lemon-ad.html, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_%28automobile%29)
    – zebonaut
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 9:02
  • I've reached the limit of my knowledge on this subject! Let's see if there are other answers. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 9:16
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    @talmu - If you read very carefully, the device is made from the worst parts and is falsely being sold as repairable. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 17:12

This sort of hardware hack is known, in British English at least, as a Kludge.

The word is used for any system that is built from parts, possibly scrap or obsolete, taken from other machines.

The word can also be used for a temporary repair of a similar nature - a lash-up to get you home.

  • 4
    ... but wouldn't a kludge be quite obvious in most cases, and provide a clumsy, but working solution? On the risk of sounding too critical and not thankful, the device I have in mind looks perfect and has a lot of hidden flaws that won't show up before you turn it on or run deeper tests. It may actually be built to look not kludge-y at all with the aim of cheating and reaching a high resale price.
    – zebonaut
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 9:29
  • That would depend on the outward appearance. if you put your dodgy components into a nice looking shiny box, it will fool a lot of the people a lot of the time.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 9:31
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    @zebonaut I agree: A kludge usually works, albeit in strange and unusual ways. I think of a kludge as something MacGyver has put together. If may look awful and work sub-optimal but it gets the job done, at least for the moment.
    – Tonny
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 14:36
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    Agreed, in the circles I frequent here in the US klu(d)ge refers to a clumsy, inelegant solution -- but generally one that gets the job done, and it's done with the intent that it gets the job done. The OP seems to be asking for the exact opposite: something that's put together cleanly and looks great, but with no intention of it ever actually working.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 21:59

"My friend was able to construct two usable laser printers, and one useless Frankenstein - which he sold anyway."

  • 5
    As something cobbled together from various bits and pieces a Frankenstein works for me. But I fail to see the implication that the end-result is a useless, non-functional, heap of parts. After all, the monster did live, didn't he ?
    – Tonny
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 14:38
  • @Tonny He never functioned in normal society!
    – user116680
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 4:32
  • I said "useless" Frankenstein b/c that was the description in OP's question. I am the owner of a functioning Frankenstein computer and there are plenty of Frankenstein cars on the road - check out the recent articles on "the cars of Cuba". (Very cool)
    – Oldbag
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 5:28
  • @Oldbag The computer I'm typing this on is a Frankenstein with parts from at least 10 different sources. Case, PSU, motherboard is a HP Workstation, dual Xeon CPU's come from a Dell PowerEdge server, 8 strips of ECC-RAM from 3 different Proliant servers. Has 8 disks and only the SSD was bought, the rest come from 5 (6?) donors. I forget where the DVD burner and GFX-cardcame from. 2nd NIC, USB3 controller were bought and the keyboard is a Model M I rescued from a skip. But it all works perfectly. It's nodename on the network is Franky, for obvious reasons ;-)
    – Tonny
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 9:47
  • But Dr. Frankenstein was a very capable scientist and certainly not himself constructed from dead parts. </pedantry>.
    – Useless
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 12:59

I wonder if the word "similar to diva" was simply defective. "V" and "F" sounds may be hard for a non-native speaker to distinguish, since some languages don't contain both of them. If the OP's example, an honest seller might describe the third item as "known to be defective".

  • "Known to be defective" works. Defective itself doesn't necessarily imply malice.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 22:04

You can refer to the resulting product as a botch job:

An improvised and ultimately dishonest approach to repair so as only to provide a temporal verisimilitude of correct functionality.
Urban Dictionary

  • Also related to hack job.
    – jxh
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 17:30

In American, it's called jury rigged. That's when you cobble something together in order to make it work. This only applies to the first two laser pointers, more so if you'd used parts from other manufacturers. The third one, as you say, is offered: as is.

The technical term is: Broken @$$ piece of $#!^.

  • While I agree that your technical term fits the requirements pretty well ;-), I guess it was something more subtle. We would have remembered "Broken @$$ piece of $#!^".
    – zebonaut
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 20:13
  • 2
    To me (born in California, living in Massachusetts) "jury rigged" is similar to the "kludge" answer given above -- it's a temporary (and frequently crappy) fix that's intended to get something working, rather than an attempt to put together a pile of known faulty parts only to make it look good.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 22:01
  • 1
    "Jury rigged", is when there's corruption at the courthouse. The actual term is "gerry-rigged" - (from a nickname for the Germans during WWII) a grudging appreciation of their ingenuity, in spite of a lack of parts, for various 'slap-dash' repairs made to weapons and vehicles. There is also a common American expression: "nigger-rigged" - which means the same thing, but is no longer popular - for obvious reasons.
    – Oldbag
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 13:48
  • 4
    @Oldbag: no, both are "actual terms." "Jury-rigged" actually seems to be the most common variant, and is also older than "jerry-rigged." The sense seems to be that of etymonline's "jury" in "jury-mast," with the meaning "temporary." As far as I know, "jury-rigged" is never used to refer to judicial corruption. english.stackexchange.com/questions/132868/…
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 16:03
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    @Bobble - Agreed, see my comment on myol's answer, or read the link. It comes from the French word for day: 'jour'.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 21:48

Something sold broken, but fixable, would be called a fixer-upper.

fixer-upper: (noun) something (as a house or car) that needs fixing up


  • I think that's the opposite of what the OP was asking for. They mean something that looks okay from the outside, but is in fact practically impossible to make work. Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 2:24

When sold, your junk device could be called a pup, as in "to be sold a pup".


Jerry rigged

Urban dictionary

To fix an object (usually mechanical) to a working condition in a haphazard way.


Organized or constructed in a crude or improvised manner

  • "First known use: 1959" –MW, your link. See the link in my answer. SE consensus disagrees with WWII being the origin: Jerry-masts or rigs derive their name from the the French jour, "day," indicating their temporary nature .... "Jerry-rig" and "jerry-rigged" don't seem to have come into use until after World War II.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 14:11
  • Something that's been jerry-rigged is an a working state of some sort. This doesn't match with the OP's request.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 14:05

If a product is a (ticking) time-bomb it will fail at some indeterminate point in the future, with the implication that the flaw is hidden and will not be found until it "explodes".


Defunct de·funct /dəˈfəNGkt/ adjective –Google

no longer existing or functioning. "a now defunct technology that only people over a certain age remember"
synonyms: disused, unused, inoperative, nonfunctioning, unusable, obsolete

Origin: mid 16th century (in the sense ‘deceased’): from Latin defunctus ‘dead,’ past participle of defungi ‘carry out, finish,’ from de- (expressing reversal) + fungi ‘perform.’

Cannibalized to reconstruct two other units, all components are present, however the entire assembly is defunct. No refunds.


Ford. Which is the common abbreviation for Fix Or Repair Daily.

  • Not to be confused with a seadoo redoo.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 22:08

Well, with any eccentric device, such as the outlandish breakfast making machine made by Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you can say it's 'Heath Robinson'.

This refers to the eponymous English artist who created drawings of mad machines.

I have commonly heard such machines described thus, in the UK.

Example: It's very 'Heath Robinson', that crazy machine!

The Wikipedia link notes the use of his name to mean 'any unnecessarily complex and implausible contrivance', used in both the UK and USA.

Very worth looking at his wonderfully clever and funny drawings, as well.


And as for Potts, how I wish I had a machine like his:


  • "Heath Robinson" means overly complicated. It does not mean "full of broken parts".
    – AndyT
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 14:04
  • Oh really? @AndyT: From Wikipedia: "In the UK, the term "Heath Robinson" entered the popular language during the 1914–1918 First World War as a description of any unnecessarily complex and implausible contrivance, ..."Heath Robinson contraption" is perhaps more often used in relation to temporary fixes using ingenuity and whatever is to hand, often string and tape, or unlikely cannibalisations. Its continuing popularity was undoubtedly linked to Britain's shortages and the need to "make do and mend" during the Second World War."
    – Jelila
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 23:14
  • So.... your quote completely backs up my previous comment? I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 10:57
  • How are 'unlikely cannibalisations' and 'temporary fixes using ingenuity and whatever is to hand' not referring to reusing parts of broken machines? @AndyT
    – Jelila
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 0:02
  • 1
    @Jelila: The OP refers to an item that doesn't work made from broken parts, quite dissimilar to working items temporarily fixed using working parts from inoperable machines.
    – user252684
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 3:27

The Japanese have Chindōgu which are inventions that are purposely created to solve a problem (that may not have existed in the first place) but are really just useless.

Wikipedia: Chindōgu is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that, on the face of it, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem. However, chindōgu has a distinctive feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant social embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever. Thus, chindōgu are sometimes described as "unuseless" – that is, they cannot be regarded as "useless" in an absolute sense, since they do actually solve a problem; however, in practical terms, they cannot positively be called "useful".

This answer is a bit tangential from the OP's question but does describe a set of inventions that are deliberately broken or "unuseless".

  • Impatient users term it * junk*. When officially sold at half rate/discounted price the same is " seconds", particularly clothes.
    – Narasimham
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 15:17

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