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Please see the img below. enter image description here

What does "write me a new minivan" mean here?

PS: I am from a non English Speaking country.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because explaining jokes is considered very off-topic.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 12:59
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    Sorry Mitch, I believe this post is very much in the spirit of the site-"English Language & Usage". It was not about explaining a joke. I did not know even it was about a joke. I came across this usage in a training presentation and was interested to know the meaning of it.Such questions would help people (mainly from non-English-speaking geographies) understand this and upgrade their knowledge. Most importantly such explanation are not found in dictionaries or grammar books. Thus this site would feel the gap. So rather closing, IMHO, such things should be encouraged.
    – Dexter
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 6:50
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    I agree with Dexter that such a construct could cause a lot of confusion in a non-native speaker (although by now, this is familiar to me, 20 years ago I know I could have made up an explanation that was completely incorrect) Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 21:27
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    I am a native English speaker and I don't get it. Rest assured.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 21:42
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    May be worth pointing out that ‘write me a minivan’ is not an established idiom, nor even a phrase that would make much sense in general. It's the rest of the cartoon that (indirectly) gives it some meaning.
    – gidds
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 22:33

3 Answers 3

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Wally, the engineer who is going "write a mini-van", is going to intentionally abuse the incentive system by intentionally creating bugs, then claiming the ten-dollar bonus for fixing each bug. That can be done much faster than finding and fixing existing bugs, so it's a quick way to "earn" enough money to buy a minivan.

The larger point of the comic is that misaligned incentives create bad behavior, and that the people who create misaligned incentives don't realize when they do so:

  • The boss wonders about whether it will "drive the right behavior", but doesn't have enough wisdom to realize that it won't.
  • The engineers (portrayed as being smarter than their boss) immediately see how to exploit the terrible incentive program, and celebrate.
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    Perhaps something with drive behavior? But how does a mini-van come into it??
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 21:43
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    @Lambie ... a "mini-van" is just something expensive that this guy wants to get. Perhaps the other engineer will write herself a cruise.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 6:56
  • @GEdgar I just don't think it works too well.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 14:51
  • @GEdgar, yes, but the joke, if it is to be successful, has to be readily understood by most of its intended audience, and I doubt that a minivan is something that would first come to the mind of most people as an object they covet. It is something that only a relatively small percentage of people have a use for.
    – jsw29
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 17:06
  • While this is a reasonable explanation of this particular (not very successful) attempt at a joke, it should be emphasised that, as @gidds has already pointed out in a comment below the question, write a mini-van is not an idiom; it is a phrase that has no usage outside this single cartoon. This needs to be emphasised so that those who are trying to improve their English by browsing this site are not misled into thinking that they can use the phrase and expect to be understood.
    – jsw29
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 15:49
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The goal is to "write bug-free software", so the man is saying he is going to "write" himself a new minivan by fixing the bugs in the code. Essentially, he is going to make enough money by writing bug-free code that he will have written enough to purchase himself a new minivan.

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  • Thanks Leon. I should have thought in that direction :). I am going to write a new Ferrari to myself :)
    – Dexter
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 9:14
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    Just for more information: there are two ways to read the joke. One way to read it is that writing software can be so complex that innumerable bugs can be found and fixed before it is "bug-free" (and some would say that no software is really bug free). Another way to read it (and the way I prefer to read it) is that the software developers themselves can introduce the bugs themselves. and then fix them. Indeed, that's what Test-Driven-Development is all about. Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 9:23
  • "for every bug you find and fix". I assume they're fixing existing code, not code which does not yet exist, since non-existent code cannot be fixed, and the verb "write" is referring to the new code that replaces the buggy code. The existing code has enough bugs in it that a rate of $10 per bug fixed there will be enough money to pay for a minivan. So, "write me [myself] a minivan's worth of bug fixes".
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 9:31
  • The word "write" is being used because the manager wants the buggy code to be overwritten, which obviously requires new code to be written.
    – Leon
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 11:58
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    The point of the joke is finding bugs and fixing them—writing bug-free software in the end. The punchline says that what the person will do is write his own extremely buggy software, identify those bugs (at $10 each), and then fix them. It wouldn't be a punchline if it were interpreted in the normal sense. The behaviour being produced is wrong behaviour. Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 16:53
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"I'm gonna write me a new minivan" is a shortcut to saying "I will earn myself a new minivan by writing the so-called 'bug-free code'," presumably by creating and then fixing bugs, or fixing fictitious bugs, etc.

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    OK, I get what you say, I agree but think it was a pretty feeble joke.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 21:44

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