- Placeholder name
Placeholder names are words that can refer to objects or people whose names are either temporarily forgotten, irrelevant, or unknown in the context in which they are being discussed. "Whatchamacallit" (for objects) and "Whatshisname" or "Whatshername" (for men and women, respectively) are defining examples.
- 1 Linguistic role
- 2 Placeholder names in English
- 3 Placeholder names in other languages
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
These placeholders typically function grammatically as nouns and can be used for people (e.g., John Doe, Jane Doe), objects (e.g., widget) or places (e.g., Timbuktu). They share a property with pronouns, because their referents must be supplied by context; but, unlike a pronoun, they may be used with no referent—the important part of the communication is not the thing nominally referred to by the placeholder, but the context in which the placeholder occurs.
Stuart Berg Flexner and Harold Wentworth's Dictionary of American Slang (1960) uses the term "kadigan" to describe placeholder words. They define "kadigan" as a synonym for thingamajig. The term may have originated with Willard R. Espy, though others, such as David Annis, also used it (or cadigans) in their writing. Its etymology is obscure—Flexner and Wentworth related it to the generic word gin for engine (as in the cotton gin). It may also relate to the Irish surname Cadigan. Hypernyms (words describing generic categories; e.g., "flower" for tulips and roses) may also be used in this function of a placeholder, but they are not considered to be kadigans.
Placeholder names in English
These words exist in a highly informal register of the English language. In formal speech and writing, words like accessory, paraphernalia, artifact, instrument, or utensil are preferred; these words serve substantially the same function, but differ in connotation.
Most of these words can be documented in at least the nineteenth century. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story entitled "The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq"., showing that particular form to be in familiar use in the United States in the 1840s. In Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, W. S. Gilbert makes the Lord High Executioner sing of a "little list" which includes:
... apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind, Such as: What d'ye call him: Thing'em-bob, and likewise: Never-mind, and 'St: 'st: 'st: and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who: The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.
Placeholder names are used commonly in computing:
- Foo, Bar and Baz (and combinations thereof) are commonly used as placeholders for file, function and variable names. Distinguish FUBAR
- Hacker slang includes a number of placeholders, such as frob, which may stand for any small piece of equipment. To frob, likewise, means to do something to something. In practice it means: to adjust (a device) in an aimless way.
- Alice and Bob, alternatives for 'Person A'/'Person B' when describing processes in telecommunications; in cryptography Eve (the eavesdropper) is also added.
- J. Random X (e.g., J. Random Hacker, J. Random User) is a term used in computer jargon for a randomly selected member of a set, such as the set of all users. Sometimes used as J. Random Troll for any not-very-computer-literate user.
- John Doe and the variations Jane Doe (for females) and John Roe (for a second party) are used in legal action and cases when the true identity of a person is unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons. "Jane Roe" was used for the then-unidentified plaintiff (Norma Leah McCorvey) in one of the most famous legal cases in United States history, Roe v. Wade.
- Mopery is used in informal legal discussions as a placeholder for some infraction, when the exact nature of the infraction is not important.
- Blackacre and its neighbors Whiteacre, Greenacre, Brownacre, Greyacre, Pinkacre, etc. are used as placeholders for parcels of real property, usually on Law School examinations and the several State Bar Exams. They are located in Acre County in the fictional State of Franklin.
Placeholder expressions can refer to people as well. Among words or phrases used in English to refer to people of unknown or irrelevant name are:
- Tom, Dick and Harry, for a series of three specific unnamed (usually male) people; or for any number of unknown people, usually with the term "every", for example: "Every Tom, Dick and Harry showed up to the party". Harriet may sometimes be substituted for Harry for a more gender-balanced version of the phrase, or Sally may be added, as in the TV series 3rd Rock from the Sun. Originated in the Early Modern period of literature as Rafe, Robin, and Dick, who were often used as characters in plays.
- Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all: another placeholder phrase, in this case used to indicate a long list of people.
- So-and-so; also often used as a euphemism for a stronger, possibly vulgar, epithet, for example, "that stupid so-and-so!"
- Buddy (Newfoundland English), any male of unknown identity, often used in conjunction with "Whasisname".
- Joe Bloggs (British male, referring to anyone of unknown identity)
- Fred Bloggs (British male, referring to a subsequent unknown person)
- Bob Soap (alternative of Joe Bloggs)
- Charlie Farnsbarns (similar to Joe Bloggs)
- Fred Nerks or Fred Nerk or just Fred (as in "Fred, you can't turn right here" (Australian equivalent of Joe Bloggs))
- John Q. Public (American English for the public-at-large)
- John Q. Law or Johnny Law (American English for any law enforcement officer)
- Joe Public (British English): an average person in the street
- A. N. Other (usually British English): unspecified person on a list, often abbreviated to ANO
- Joe Blow (North America): average male person
- Joe Sixpack (North America): average cheap-beer-drinking worker, slightly derogatory
- Joe Bunda (similar to Joe Sixpack but specific to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; also in Pittsburgh: Joe Matahratz and Joe Bagadonutz. Joe Bagadonutz is a particular favorite of Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. Joe Bunda is also used at the United States Naval Academy.)
- Joe Shmoe (North America): average male person
- John (British English, colloquial term for male of unknown identity, also North American term for client of prostitute).
- John Doe/Jane Doe, originally a term in law, has expanded in North America to be used colloquially for any person or for a hypothetical average person. It is also used in police work to refer to an unidentified corpse.
- The Joneses (used as a placeholder for the typical average family, often one perceived to have higher social status or aspirations: Keeping up with the Joneses)
- Mrs Kafoops (Australian, slightly derogatory)
- Dat fella (Malaysian/Singaporean for "that fellow")
- Old mate (Australian; man, stranger or person)
- Yer man (Irish male)
- Yer wan (Irish female. Unlike the male form, sometimes used to connote contempt)
- Joe Soap (Irish English, refers to any typical person)
- Himself/Herself (Irish male/female)
- Lord/Lady Muck (Male/Female who is acting as if others are their servants)
- Frick and Frack (Indistinguishable Male pair)
- Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Indistinguishable Male pair, slightly derogatory)
- Grandma/Grandpa (a usually older adult lacking technical knowledge)
- PVT Snuffy, AMN Snuffy, Joe Snuffy (US military, referring to any general soldier or low-ranking individual)
- PVT, PFC or LCpl Schmuckatelli (Marine Corps, referring to any general low-ranking enlisted Marine)
- Joe Gish (U.S. Naval Academy for any Midshipman; his roommate is W.T. Door)
- Kadoogan (One example of 'kadigan' being used as a placeholder is in the Ren and Stimpy Show where Stimpy's last name is given as Kadoogan, a reference to the term kadigan.)[original research?]
- "Wendy Wellesley" is used as "Jane Doe" at Wellesley College
- Emmet and Grockle are mildly abusive yet affectionate West Country terms for tourists. "Emmet" is a dialect word for "ant".
- Matey is a West Country term for a person with whom one has an anticipated, temporary or intermittent personalised interaction restricted to specific requirements or actions, e.g. "We'd got as far as the Okehampton Bypass when we stopped to give Matey there a jump-start".
- Unsub (USA police usage): unnamed person, an unknown subject of an investigation
- Vic (USA police usage): unnamed person who is a crime victim
- Fnu Lnu is used by authorities to identify unknown suspects, the name being an acronym for First Name Unknown, Last Name Unknown. If a person's first name is known but not the last, they may be called "John Lnu" or "Fnu Doe", and an unidentified person may be "Fnu Lnu". For example, a former interpreter for the United States military was charged as "FNU LNU", and a mute man whose identity could not be determined was arrested and charged with burglary in Harris County, Texas under the name "FNU-LNU" (charges were later dropped because authorities could not communicate with the man). Fnu-Lnu conjunctions may also be used if the person has only a single name, as in Indonesian names. The name has been considered a source of humor when "Fnu Lnu" has been mistaken for the actual name of a person.
- PC/DC 0000 Robert Peel is a placename that is used for giving mock information about a police officer. Robert Peel is chosen due to origins of the British policing. 0000 (or AA 000 for the Met) is used, as no collar number can be four zeros.
- David Cohen used in Victorian times to refer to a Jewish immigrant who either could not be positively identified or whose name was too difficult for police to spell, in the same fashion that John Doe is used in the United States today
Certain fixed expressions are used as placeholder names in a number of specialized contexts. People sometimes speak of Old So-and-so or What's-'is-name or What's-'is-face (cruder) or Miss Thing (popular in the Southern US states, where it refers to a female who thinks herself better than other people, and often pronounced Miss Thang). Tommy Atkins is a mythical Briton who filled out all his forms correctly, and as such lent his name to British soldiers generally; his Canadian counterpart is "Corporal (or some other rank) Bloggins". John Smith, often from "Anytown, U.S.A". and John Q. Public are also used as placeholder names, for unnamed citizens and similarly in Britain, one might refer to Joe Bloggs. "Joe Random" or "Joe Average" are also referred to, sometimes more specifically as "Joe Average Voter" or "Joe Random Customer". In Australia, the name John Citizen is used in a similar capacity on samples of forms or cards. In America, Joe or Jane Sixpack refers to the perceived average middle or working class person. In theatre, television and motion pictures, the great actors Walter Plinge, David Agnew, and George Spelvin are pseudonyms used for cast members who prefer to go unnamed. The name Alan Smithee is similarly used by film directors who wish to remain pseudonymous (often because their film did not turn out well). Conversely, placeholders can be used to conceal identity, as seen in the above Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics. The Newfoundland entertainer "Buddy Whasisname" derives his stage name from a common local usage (combining two terms) describing an unknown male.
Movies and theatre also give rise to another specific type of placeholder, the MacGuffin. This is any object or person used to drive a plot or as the goal of a quest, but which otherwise has no relevance to the action, and thus could be replaced in the script with another similar item with no loss of sense. A foozle is a generic enemy or group of enemies that must be defeated for the plot to move on in a game. Scriptwriters for science fiction productions such as 'Star Trek' often use the word "TECH" as a placeholder which the show's technical adviser can later replace with some plausible-sounding detail (e.g., a type of radiation or particles).
Cryptographers conventionally use a fixed cast of characters when describing their systems in general terms. For example, the quintessential cryptographic system has Alice wanting to send a message to Bob without Eve being able to eavesdrop on them. These names are even used in formal, peer-reviewed papers in the field, see Alice and Bob.
Forms of address
Some placeholders are used in second-person to address another, usually—but not always—because the second party's name is unknown.
Sir or Madam/Ma'am. In English-speaking society, the most universally accepted forms of address to another person, known or unknown, and regardless of station, are "Sir" (to men) and "Madam", sometimes shortened to "Ma'am", (to women). "Sir" and "Madam/Ma'am", for example, are considered acceptable forms of address for most of the world's heads of state, including royalty.
Friend. "Friend", or other synonyms of amity, may be used in its literal sense, but is often used ironically to indicate displeasure or hostility. May also be used between strangers in a non-ironic manner. Used especially among Quakers, the Society of Friends.
Terms of endearment. Words such as "honey" or "sweetie" are generally perceived as affectionate between friends, family or intimates. Outside this group, or in more formal or professional settings, the use of these words becomes more problematic. Their use by a person to a member of the opposite sex may be seen as forward or presumptuous, or even patronizing and demeaning (especially when used by a man to a woman). When used by a woman to address another woman, the sense may be friendly or hostile (see Friend, above); when used by a man to another man, it is generally perceived to have homosexual overtones (i.e., suggesting that either the speaker or the addressee—or both—is homosexual).
Second-person placeholder names include:
- Amigo (Spanish for "friend"); occasionally used by non-Hispanics when calling out to an unknown Hispanic male (though might be considered rude or offensive)
- Baby or
- Battle Often used by U.S. troops, especially US Army Soldiers, to call to one another, based on the Army's term 'Battle-Buddy'.
- Big Boy or Big Guy or Big Man
- Bird (UK, woman, usually young; cf. chick). Also My Bird : a traditional Cornish term of endearment from an older female to a younger one.
- Bloke (Man, British English)
- Boo, (urban slang) significant other
- Boss (East London)
- Brah (Variant of 'bro')
- Bredren (Jamaican slang or Rastafarian vocabulary, derived from "Brethren")
- a "close male friend"
- a male person "engaged in the same movement"
- slang form of address meaning "fellow" or "buddy", as in "Brother, can you spare a dime?"
- one black male to another
- one Muslim male to another
- a normal form of address for a members of various fraternal or monastic groups
- Buddy or Bud ("Buddy" is especially common in Newfoundland English)
- B'y: Newfoundland pronunciation of "Boy", used as a general form of address primarily to a male but now increasingly to females. It does not hold any of the derogatory meaning that the term "Boy" does in standard English, especially when directed at minorities
- Chick (woman, usually young). Sometimes perceived as disrespectful of women.
- Chief (for a person in authority)
- Chum or Chummie/Chummy - the latter being also an insider term often used by UK Police to refer to an as-yet unidentified suspect.
- Cuz (Australian Aboriginal English, derived from 'cousin', also archaically in British English).
- Dear or Dearie
- Dog or Dawg
- Doll or Dolly
- Dude (man or woman; also a general exclamation)
- Dudette. Sometimes used as the female version of dude.
- Duck, Ducks, Ducky or my Duck
- Fella (UK + Australian, man, stranger or person)
- Old mate (Australian; man, stranger or person)
- G (abbreviation for "gangster", often used ironically)
- Gaffer (British English): a foreman, or sometimes an older male, especially a grandfather
- Gangsta or Gangster
- Geezer (Man, British English; in American English, an irreverent term for an older man)
- Gildong Hong a fictitious character in an old Korean novel, Tale of Hong Gildong
- Grandma, Gram, or Granny, an address to an older woman. Can be disrespectful.
- Grandpa, Grampa, or Gramps: an older man; may denote disrespect.
- Guv or Guvnor (UK, man) - usually one's boss or senior.
- Guy or Guys (to a man, although the term "guys" could be used to refer to any group of people without regard to gender)
- Hen (to a woman) Central Scotland
- Homeboy or Homey or Homes' (may be used as a term or endearment between male friends, or aggressively by strangers or enemies)
- Honey or Hon
- Jack (man), generally in an unfriendly sense
- Jim or Jimmy (man), Scottish, sometimes in an unfriendly sense (as made popular in the UK by Russ Abbott's Glasgow street character "See You Jimmy !")
- Lad or Lass
- Lady (woman)
- Little one
- Little man
- Love (UK)
- Ma'am, Madam, or Madame (woman)
- Mac (man)
- Maid, (Newfoundland English and West Country) a woman, or a young unmarried girl or daughter
- Man (to a man) It may also be used as an interjection, not addressed to anyone in particular, in which case it is not truly a placeholder ("Aw, man!").
- Mate (Australia/UK, man)
- My Lover (Southwestern UK)
- Miss, generally addressed to a young woman or girl. In some dialects, it is a form of address for a female teacher, regardless of her marital status.
- Missus, Newfoundland English term of respect or affection for a mature woman. Also in British English, a term of affectionate reference to one's wife/female partner/steady girlfriend.
- Nigga, (African American Vernacular English) though it has been known to be used between black people as a term of endearment, there is a controversy associated with its usage as it is an eye dialect of a racial slur, and an ongoing debate as to whether or not there is any meaningful difference between the two terms.
- Old girl (British English): Wife or partner
- Old man (British English): Husband or partner
- Oppo (uk): typically a term used to describe a colleague, mostly in male-dominated environments e.g. the military, construction, industry.
- Pal or Pally (originally British Romany)
- Padre, from the Spanish word for "father", a placeholder in military use for any man of the cloth, regardless of denomination
- Pop or Pops, often a disrespectful term for an older man or a term of endearment for a grandfather
- Poppet', a term of affection for a small child or sweetheart
- Shorty, (urban slang) an attractive female. It can also be addressed to someone younger than the addressee or to a colleague that is new or inexperienced in the same field as the addressee (i.e.: a rookie, a new rapper)
- one black person to a black woman
- one Muslim woman to another
- term of reference for a woman in religious orders
- Sis, shortened version of sister
- Skipper, Newfoundland English term of respect or affection for a mature man
- Son: generally used by an older man to one at least a generation younger; or by a man who, by virtue of rank or position, has charge or authority over the other, such as a drill sergeant over a private soldier. In the latter instance, it may be in a hostile context: "Son, you'd best move your ass before you find my foot up it!"
- Sonny or Sonny boy: also generally used by an older man to one at least a generation younger; there would be a degree of hostility: "Listen to me, Sonny boy "...
- Sport or Sporto, from the term "good sport" referring to someone who can take a joke or someone who exhibits polite behavior even or especially when things go wrong.
- Sugar: often used in the southeastern U.S. as a means of referring to another with affection. Most often used by women.
- Sweetheart or Sweetie
In some forms of English, placeholder names exist to represent locations, particularly the stereotypical backward, insignificant or isolated town in the middle of nowhere. These include:
- Anytown, USA and Dullsville in the USA.
- Auchterturra in Scotland, and Glenboggin, which has its own official website.
- Back of Burke in Australia (unspecified remote place -- since many places are named after the explorer Robert O'Hara Burke)
- Bally-Go-Backwards in Ireland (unspecified remote small country town).
- Black Stump or also Albuquerque in Australia and New Zealand ("beyond the black stump" indicates an extremely remote location).
- Up the Boohai (approximately "boo-eye") in New Zealand, occasionally given as, Up the Boohai hunting pukekos with a long handled shovel. The Boohai is a fictitious river. It is used to indicate that the answerer does not wish to respond to any question involving "where?". Up the Boohai can also indicate that plans are apparently ruined or an item is extremely non-functional.
- The Boondocks (or the Boonies).
- BFE or Bumblefuck, Egypt (also Bumfuck, Egypt, Butt Fuck, Egypt, or Beyond Fucking Egypt) refers to an unspecified remote location or destination, assumed to be arduous to travel to, unpleasant to visit and/or far away from anything of interest to the speaker (e.g. "Man, you parked way the hell out in BFE"). In Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, this is often referred to as Japip or East Jabip/Jabib. In the Chicago metropolitan area, the term was coined to refer to the region in downstate Illinois known as "Little Egypt", centered in Cairo, Illinois, for being the furthest from the urban center in both distance and way of life. Bumfuck is also military slang for a remote, hard to get to military base. Has been also rendered as Bumfuck, Iowa or Bumfuck, Wyoming or Bumfuck, Idaho. Bumblefuck, Missouri was popularized by the 1988 movie Rain Man.
- Buttcrack or Upper Buttcrack (usually a New England state).
- Crackerland and Jerkwater (from the 1982 film First Blood, small hometowns of typical US Army recruits).
- East Cupcake.
- East Jabib refers to an obscure location far across town.
- East Jesus.
- Four-Fifths of Fuck-All.
- Dog River, Armpit, or Moose Fuck in Canada.
- Hickville is used to describe a small farming town. (Hick comes from hillbilly.)
- Loamshire for a rural county in England (and the Loamshires for a regiment based in that county).
- Outer Mongolia used to represent a far and distant land relatively unknown to the average person; also rendered as the imaginary country of Outer Congolia
- Peoria refers to provincial mainstream cities or towns in the US; typically used in expressions like "Will it play in Peoria?"
- Podunk in the USA.
- Sainte-Clotilde-de-Rubber-Boot in Quebec, Canada.
- The Sticks refers to a remote rural location (UK)
- Timbuktu is often used to refer to an unspecified but remote place. Sometimes exaggerated as timbuckthree, timbucktwelve, etc. to indicate further removed than timbuktu.
- Tipperary can still be used to denote anywhere that is "a long way from home".
- Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein used to refer to a typical South African small rural town.
- Ultima Thule can mean "beyond the borders of the known world" or a far-north island.
- Upper Rubber Boot in Ontario, Canada.
- Woop Woop, Upper Woop Woop, Oodnawoopwoop, or Wopwops in Australia and New Zealand (often "out Woop Woop" as in, "they live out Woop Woop somewhere", and used when referring to people who live in a country area unfamiliar to the speaker).
- Waikikamukau (pronounced "Why kick a moo-cow") in New Zealand.
Other place names include:
- Blackacre, Whiteacre, and Greenacre are widely used in law courses to represent hypothetical pieces of real property of which hypothetical people may be seized.
- Joe's Diner is used to refer to a typical restaurant run as a small business.
Common components of placeholders for places are -town, -ville, -hampton (in the United Kingdom), -vale, Big-, Mid-, Middle-, Little-, Small-, Bally- (in Ireland), and Any-. The National Health Service of the UK, as well as the Department for Transport, use a large variety of placeholders as examples, including:
- Port Lever
- Eastern Vale
- St Elsewhere's
Dates and times
- "Eleventh Hour" describes an indeterminate time just prior to a deadline. As in "It got done at the eleventh hour, but thankfully the client suspected nothing".
- Composite names such as "Septober" (September and October), and "Decemuary" (December and January) are sometimes used to refer to an indeterminate month.
- Nonexistent days, such as February 31 or the 12th of Never (usually given as the intended date of occurrence for something that will never happen, as in the popular song The Twelfth of Never).
- In the same vein, in ancient Roman culture, "on the Greek Kalends" referred to never. (The Greeks did not, as the Romans did, refer to the first of the month as "Kalends".)
- Nonexistent times, such as 13 o'clock, oft|Timbucktoo|Timbucktooen used to describe when something is going to start or finish, but meaning it's still a long way off.
- "Up at the Ass-Crack-o'-Dawn", a nonexistent time that refers to having been awoken extremely early, a phrase used predominantly throughout the southern region of North America.
- "(God's)-Ass-o'Clock", a nonexistent time that refers to the wee hours of very early morning. The word "God" may be omitted depending upon user's preference.
- "Oh-Christ-Hundred Hours", old military slang for very early morning.
- "Tib's Eve", named for the nonexistent Saint Tib, is a date which does not exist. (However, in the Discordian calendar, St. Tib's Day does in fact occur as a leap day, and therefore the day before it may be an actual St. Tib's Eve.)
- "Two hairs past a freckle", (or "a freckle past a hair") said when one is asked the time but despite making the habitual gesture, is not wearing a watch. Is sometimes extended to "A hair past a freckle, going on a mole".
- * Also "Skin o' clock" or "Half-past my elbow" or "A mole past a hair on my arm".
- "God-thirty in the morning", "holy mackerel o'clock", "silly o'clock", "half-past bastard", "butt crack of dawn", "chicken o'clock" referring to a time very early in the morning
- "Oh-dark thirty", "Oh-dark hundred", or "Zero Dark and Stupid" also referring to some time early in the morning (before the sun rises); usage is derived from military parlance, where 4:00 a.m. is referred to as "zero-four-hundred"
- "Dark plus thirty" meaning (loosely) just after sunset in Rainbow Gathering or Deadhead (or other festival) vernacular, meaning or thirty minutes after sundown, or more humorously, in at some indeterminate time after dark, Rainbow Gatherings tending not to happen according to any sort of schedule.
- Similarly, "(time), X Standard Time", where X is replaced by the name of any group noted for having difficulty starting events on a schedule.
- "Dark o' clock" may mean early or late.
- "Late-thirty" may mean late at night. Also "Late o' clock", or "Half past late".
- "Beer o'clock" or "Beer thirty" means it's time for the first beer in a beer-drinking session. Alternatively, beer thirty means an unspecified time during a long bout of drinking or thirty minutes until beer is no longer sold in stores, meaning that it is time for a beer run. Can also be used by bartenders to denote the time when the last drunks from the bar are driving home after closing time.
- "Pub O'Clock" also refers to drinking, but more specifically going to the pub to drink. Also "Pint O'Clock".
- "Yonks" is used in English to mean a long but indefinite duration; it is conjectured to derive either from "donkey's years" or from "years, months and weeks". This has been going on for donkey's yonks.
- "Half past a monkey's ass" or "Half past a monkey's ass and quarter till his balls" is used when one is asked the time but does not want to be bothered. Similarly: "Half past give-a-shit"
- "Sparrow's fart" (Australian): very early in the morning, e.g. "I have to get up at sparrow's fart!"
- "Half-past quarter to from" (stress on "from"). An unknown or non-existent time.
- "Stupid" may refer to any time considered far too early to be up, and may be intensified as "a quarter to stupid" or weakened as "half-past stupid" or "half stupid".
- Mumbo jumbo: rituals performed by a priest of a religion the that one does not believe in that are performed in a language that one is unfamiliar with. Can also be used about legal writing that a person does not understand or perceives as needlessly long-winded ("Legal mumbo jumbo")
- Black Box: an indeterminate or yet-to-be-invented device, typically electronic
- Contraption: a large man-made machine
- Doodad: used for indeterminate small man-made objects about the size of a cellular phone (may be electronic or not)
- Electronic brain: an indeterminate supercomputer
- Gewgaw: an indeterminate piece of jewelry
- Thingamajig or thingumabob
- Veeblefetzer: from a Yiddish word meaning "contraption" (In Mad magazine, a fictional company called "North American Veeblefetzer" was often used as a means to satirize business practices.)
- Widget, referring to some theoretical object. It was originally most commonly used in describing the output of a hypothetical business; in computer technology, it refers to any arbitrary item that may be made to appear on the screen.
Astronomy and science fiction
- Cloud cuckoo land: a proposal that the speaker regards as foolish or impractical (named derived from the ancient Greek play The Birds by Aristophanes)
- Folderol: foolish or silly talk
- FUBAR: military slang: an acronym for "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition
- Red tape: word that expresses the frustration of dealing with a slow-moving bureaucracy
- SNAFU: military slang: an acronym for "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up"
Placeholder names in other languages
- 555 (telephone number)
- Expletive attributive
- Generic you
- Nonce word
- Syntactic expletive
- The Thing-Ummy Bob
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- ^ "Emmet and grockle". World Wide Words. http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-emm1.htm. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary 1933: Emmet
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