162 votes

What is the word for things that work even when they aren't working (e.g. escalators)?

If it avoids catastrophic failure, it exhibits: graceful degradation - Graceful degradation is the ability of a computer, machine, electronic system or network to maintain limited functionality ...
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  • 6,353
157 votes

What do you call a child for whom you act as a guardian / custodian?

I believe the usual term is 'ward'. In law, a ward is someone placed under the protection of a legal guardian. - Wikipedia
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  • 17.8k
139 votes

What is the word for always YES (100%) or always NO (0%), never in-between

In engineering, a choice that can only be "yes" or "no" is called binary or Boolean (after the mathematician George Boole). Edit: Apparently, the word binary has leaked out of purely technical ...
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139 votes
Accepted

What is "musset"?

The word musset was invented by the author (Gregory Maguire). Having replicated the OP's lack of success in finding any online definition of the word, I acted on a whim and sent an email to ask him. ...
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  • 3,025
125 votes
Accepted

What does 'TL;DR' mean and how is it used?

It means "if you couldn't be bothered to read the preceding material because it looked too long (and possibly boring), here is a summary for you". The meaning is quite close to 'executive summary'. ...
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  • 6,455
117 votes
Accepted

What does the idiom "batteries not included" mean?

"Batteries not included" is a message you might find on the packaging of an electrically powered toy. Essentially it means that you should not expect the toy to work straight out of the box, and that ...
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  • 18.9k
111 votes
Accepted

"Position" is to "space" as what word is to "time"?

A moment (in time), according to Collins Dictionary a moment is: "a specific instant or point in time" Attribution: "Definition of 'moment'." Moment Definition and Meaning | Collins English ...
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  • 7,040
102 votes
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Is there a name for text that reads the same upside-down?

That is called an ambigram. It is a typographical design that can be read in more than one direction. ambigram noun A typographical design consisting of text modified in such a way that it can ...
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99 votes
Accepted

What is the word for always YES (100%) or always NO (0%), never in-between

The OP describes exhaustive and mutually exclusive cases, with two options or outcomes. In statistics, this segmentation of the possible outcomes in a finite number of choices is often called a ...
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94 votes

Single word to replace "allowed to be missing"

This is commonly denoted as optional: available as a choice but not required (source: Merriam-Webster) Another example: The definition of a method, constructor, indexer, or delegate can ...
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89 votes
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Etymology of a "pegged CPU"

Many analog gauges such as speedometers have a maximum marking which is technically not as high as you might be able to make the reading actually go. To prevent the indicator needle from going too ...
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  • 58.6k
88 votes

What is the word for always YES (100%) or always NO (0%), never in-between

You could call this situation black and white. Some might argue this isn't a single word, but it does get its own entry in some dictionaries. NOAD says: black and white (adj.) (of a situation or ...
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  • 58k
86 votes

What's a good term for source code that could theoretically still run, but is purposefully not?

It's called unreachable code. "Unreachable code" is different from dead code, dead code is code that when executed will result in no change, for example: x = 5; /* Dead Code Begin */ x = 6; ...
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  • 1,168
84 votes

"Position" is to "space" as what word is to "time"?

Technically and even mathematically speaking, that would be an instant, which can be thought of as a more technical term for a moment. This is how Wikipedia defines it: An instant is an ...
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80 votes
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Does OP mean “original poster” or “original post”?

People all over the Internet have asked the same thing—which, on the face of it, suggests that different forum posters (and perhaps, in some cases, the same people at different times) have used it to ...
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  • 151k
76 votes

A better word for "unanswered"

How about unresolved? unresolved (ˌʌnrɪˈzɒlvd) adj (of a problem or dispute) not having been solved or concluded
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  • 7,627
76 votes
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What is a "biological-only" father called?

I'm not sure why no one has said it, but the best answer is right in your question: I may have inherited a heart condition from my biological father. I have a situation similar to the one you ...
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  • 2,945
74 votes

Word for the distance from the waterline to the main deck of a boat

The word you are looking for is freeboard: In sailing and boating, a vessel's freeboard is the distance from the waterline to the upper deck level, measured at the lowest point of sheer where water ...
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  • 5,974
72 votes
Accepted

Word for not obscure but not mainstream

Niche (Adjective). Denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population: other companies in this space had to adapt to ...
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70 votes
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Social Network Accounts Owned by the Same Person

Sometimes called a sock puppet account. Lexico has 2 A false online identity, typically created by a person or group in order to promote their own opinions or views. Sock puppets are banned in many ...
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69 votes

Are there rules to determine whether a musician's title will end with “-er” or “-ist”?

What strikes me is that the -er ones look like they are derived from verbs: a drummer drums, a fiddler fiddles, a whistler whistles. A guitarist plays guitar, a pianist plays piano. So if the ...
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  • 35.8k
68 votes

What is the word for things that work even when they aren't working (e.g. escalators)?

These designs feature inherent utility. Their design features an intrinsic quality that makes them utile even when they're not fully functional. In fact, you could use the word intrinsic instead of ...
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  • 22.1k
64 votes
Accepted

What do you call a response which does not address the question?

The response in that example could be called a non sequitur: 'a statement having little or no relevance to what preceded it'. This doesn't imply deliberate avoidance, however.
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  • 1,958
62 votes
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Is there a term for a foreign word that looks like an English word but has a completely different meaning?

False friends is the common word for that :) As Wikipedia says: False friends are pairs of words or phrases in two languages or dialects (or letters in two alphabets) that look or sound similar, ...
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  • 35.8k
62 votes

Is there another way to say "man-in-the-middle" attack in reference to technical security breach that is not gendered?

What is the best way to use this terminology and be gender neutral while maintaining communication efficiency? I would suggest that your original term, "man-in-the-middle (attack)", remains ...
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60 votes
Accepted

What is the term for a sentence which reads same forwards and backwards?

They are still called palindromes, but are qualified by the term word-unit. There are also word-unit palindromes in which the unit of reversal is the word ("Is it crazy how saying sentences ...
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  • 37.7k
59 votes
Accepted

A word for when you speak ill of something and it turns out the person you are speaking to likes that thing

Not a word, but a phrase; put your foot in it/your mouth, also known as Foot-in-Mouth disease which plays on Foot-and-Mouth disease, an ailment which afflicts cattle. Example I was talking to ...
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  • 11.6k
59 votes
Accepted

Name for phrase only understood by those who already know?

shibboleth noun a custom, phrase, or use of language that acts as a test of belonging to, or as a stumbling block to becoming a member of, a particular social class, profession, etc Dictionary.com ...
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58 votes

Is there a non-medical name for the curve where index finger and thumb meet?

Perhaps you are referring to the web of the thumb. This sense of the word "web" is defined by Merriam-Webster as a tissue or membrane of an animal or plant; especially : that uniting fingers or ...
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  • 11.5k
58 votes
Accepted

Is there a word for a message that is intended to be intercepted by an adversary?

The word you are looking for is disinformation. From MW: false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the ...
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