I'm really hoping that this is an actual word at this point, but it's gotten me a severe case of loganamnosis today regardless...

I'm looking for a word that was used to describe a mechanical device or as a name for an invention. I believe that the device was an invention like a robotic arm or hand, or it could have been an invention used to assist in a task. All of my best Google Fu has only turned up different iterations of robotics.

What is sticking in my mind is that I'm fairly certain there is something strange about this word. Its etymology could be eponymic or its meaning could be used in a way that is unrelated to its original definition, and I'm almost definitely certain that I read it in some sort of etymological listicle.

I will not share what letter(s) I believe it starts with because I have found that when I try to recall a word that I am almost always wrong in this regard.

EDIT: Upon reading on the evolution of robot arms here, I don't believe it has to do with robotics. This is very frustrating, and though I want to say that the meaning of the term is now derogatory, I cannot say for certain.

  • animatronics? – Phil Sweet Sep 6 '17 at 19:13
  • An automaton is rather different from a robot. Also, this led me to re-read about The Turk, so thanks for that. – Roger Sinasohn Sep 6 '17 at 20:44
  • "gadget" seems to fit what you're describing. It's used to describe mechanical devices or new inventions. It is frequently used in a derogatory way to imply that a device is not very useful or is just a toy. It's etymology is from the French word for a part of a lock mechanism. – filistinist Sep 6 '17 at 21:26
  • "Contraption" was, for a long time, the generic term for a mechanical device, especially one which seems to operate in an ungainly fashion. – Hot Licks Sep 6 '17 at 22:34
  • This is what we call a "guessing game" question. They're not a good fit for the site – or, to my knowledge, any SE site. (more) – MetaEd Sep 19 '17 at 21:37

waldo, English Oxford Dictionaries:

remote-controlled device for handling or manipulating objects.


1940s: named after Waldo F. Jones, a fictional inventor described by Robert Heinlein in a science fiction story.

According to Wikipedia, Waldo (Short Story):

"Waldo" (1942) is a short story by Robert A. Heinlein originally published in Astounding Magazine in August 1942 under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald.....

The essence of the story is the journey of a mechanical genius from his self-imposed exile from the rest of humanity to a more normal life, conquering the disease myasthenia gravis as well as his own contempt for humans in general... Waldo Farthingwaite-Jones was born a weakling, unable even to lift his head up to drink or to hold a spoon. Far from destroying him, this channeled his intellect, and his family's money, into the development of the device patented as "Waldo F. Jones' Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph". Wearing a glove and harness, Waldo could control a much more powerful mechanical hand simply by moving his hand and fingers. This and other technologies he develops make him a rich man, rich enough to build a home in space.

In the story, these devices became popularly known as "waldoes". In reference to this story, the real-life remote manipulators that were later developed also came to be called waldoes,[1] some even by NASA.[2] Later, an American company, The Character Shop, which creates animatronic devices and objects (often for motion pictures), obtained the trademark to Waldo for "data-capture input devices".

The short story is available with another short story in the book Waldo & Magic Inc.

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  • If the word you're looking for isn't waldo, then you may be thinking about a Turk. – Gnawme Sep 6 '17 at 22:21
  • Waldo is it! You are a mindsaver. I was certain I hadn't given enough information. – Roux Sep 7 '17 at 19:35

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