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JARGON FILE

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Acme n.

[from Greek `akme', highest point of perfection or achievement] The canonical supplier of bizarre, elaborate, and non-functional gadgetry - where Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson (two cartoonists who specialized in elaborate contraptions) shop. The name has been humorously expanded as A (or American) Company Making Everything. (In fact, Acme was a real brand sold from Sears Roebuck catalogs in the early 1900s.) Describing some X as an "Acme X" either means "This is insanely great", or, more likely, "This looks insanely great on paper, but in practice it's really easy to shoot yourself in the foot with it." Compare pistol.

This term, specially cherished by American hackers and explained here for the benefit of our overseas brethren, comes from the Warner Brothers' series of "Roadrunner" cartoons. In these cartoons, the famished Wile E. Coyote was forever attempting to catch up with, trap, and eat the Roadrunner. His attempts usually involved one or more high-technology Rube Goldberg devices - rocket jetpacks, catapults, magnetic traps, high-powered slingshots, etc. These were usually delivered in large wooden crates labeled prominently with the Acme name - which, probably not by coincidence, was the trade name of the animation rotation board used by cartoonists since forever. Acme devices invariably malfunctioned in improbable and violent ways.


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