I've heard this expression (I think it was two words) long time ago. The expression meaning is that there is a protection/preventative measure against access/use by those who do not understand or know the subject. To me [as non-native speaker] the meaning was immediately clear when I've heard it, but now I cannot recall this expression.

I've heard it being used in software development industry, in casual speech only (would not be suitable for official communications). But I imagine it can be used in other situations where the same meaning applies.

It is similar to "fail-safe" but with the stress on the fact that "fail" would come from someone who does not know what they are doing. Which can be diminishing or even insulting towards end user (and so why not suitable for official communications).

As this is better suited for casual communication, the usage could appear as: "Let's put a _______________ there to make sure this does not happen" or "Let's make it _______ to avoid that in the future" (as that is how perhaps software developers would communicate such case to each other ;)

  • Please provide an example sentence with a blank where your term would go; or even a real-world example describing such a thing. – Andrew Leach Nov 13 '17 at 8:57
  • Hmm. It appears that what you're describing is a shibboleth separating sheep from goats, but that won't be the word you're after, I think. – Andrew Leach Nov 13 '17 at 9:05
  • @AndrewLeach as someone of jewish descent I do appreciate the reference, but I afraid that is not the one I am after :D this is clearly a loanword, the one I've heard is a pure English (or at least not easily distinguishable loan) – Alexey Kamenskiy Nov 13 '17 at 9:08
  • I'd use "fool-proof," but it doesn't work in the example sentence. "We enhanced the software to make it fool-proof." – JBH Nov 13 '17 at 9:08
  • @JBH I think my example is not good enough (but well, if I remembered the expression, I would not need to ask for it!) I will wait a bit to see if there will be other answers (maybe can find other variants), but meanwhile you can probably post this as an answer and if no better choice, then I will accept this one (which works just as well) – Alexey Kamenskiy Nov 13 '17 at 9:12

I'm thinking "fool-proof" is your answer, but here's a couple of others that are similar.

Fool-proof: designed to accomodate the inexperienced.

Stop-gap: designed to accomodate a temporary problem.

Off-limits: declared inaccessible, designed to prohibit access ("off-limits to students in lower grades")

I'd say that off-limits is the least-likely grammatically even though it's the closest contextually. "Let's change that to make it off-limits to junior users."

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  • Actually fool-proof is the only one applies as it stresses the protection against “the fool”. Other options don’t really apply here I afraid. – Alexey Kamenskiy Nov 13 '17 at 9:21
  • :-) That's OK. I added them to expand your context in case "fool-proof" wasn't the one. – JBH Nov 13 '17 at 9:29
  • Idiot-proof is a term similar to fool-proof. – Xanne Nov 13 '17 at 9:44

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