There are undoubtedly a number of terms used in these pages that will be unfamiliar to non-UK residents. Wherever possible, I've tried to define them here. There are also some terms that are specific to my style of expression, or my job.

APRS Amateur radio Position Reporting System. A protocol, running over amateur packet radio (think Internet over radio, but requiring each user to hold an Amateur radio licence), that allows amateur stations to automatically report their geographical position to the world at large, while listeners can display these position bulletins on a local computer screen, and see who is where.


Audio Levels In broadcasting, and indeed in the home, there is a need to ensure that the recording level of an audio signal is adequate - neither too large or too small. Relatively simple electronics can do this for you, but they tend to tromp on the dynamics of the programme material to an unacceptable extent.

The answer - manual control. This requires a modicum of clue on the part of the operator, and objective measurement tools, aka meters. There are two varieties - the VU meter, invented in the USA, and the PPM, invented by the BBC in the UK and preferred in most of Europe.

VU meters measure an approximation to how loud the audio sounds - hence the name Volume Unit - and are average reading, brief peaks such as gunshots or doorslams will not register nearly as loud as they actually are. PPMs - Peak Programme Meters, on the other hand, measure the actual peak level of a transient such as a gunshot.

Since all audio programme chains have a maximum level above which catastrophic distortion sets in, a peak reading meter will allow you to control those peaks better, because you can see them.


Cheops' Law Pseudo-scientific law of nature, which basically says "Everything takes longer, and costs more." Supposedly refers to the construction of the Egyptian Pyramids.


childminder person, generally a mother, who takes care of other people's children in her own home, and is paid  to do so by the parents of the child.


clue that notional property indicating knowledge of how something is used, or of how it works


(Amer. colorist)
the operator of a telecine. Responsible for ensuring that the pictures are as good as they can be, including adjusting the colours of the image as he (or the producer) thinks fit.


detached Style of building a house where each dwelling is complete and isolated under its own roof, with gardens, walkways or a drive separating it from other such houses


Dunblane Town in Scotland, scene of a shooting tragedy, where a mentally unbalanced shooter shot and killed most of a school class of 5 and 6 year old children with an automatic pistol. As a result, possession of handguns was made illegal in this country, despite ample evidence that the shooter should have had his licence revoked.


EDC Every Day Carry. American term, used by gun owners to describe the weapon they have with them every day. I've adopted it to describe the suite of kit I carry with me when I'm out-and-about. Can be used as noun or adjective, e.g. "EDC bag"

Ficton According to Robert A. Heinlein, in his novel "The Number of the Beast", the smallest element of the multiple universes that make up the totality of existence. Each such element is brought into being by the act of imagining it, particularly if that imagining is written down, and even more so if published for others to read.

This has the corollary that what we consider to be reality may very well be the imagining of an author somewhere else in the totality of the multiple universes.

FUBAR The third of the series of descriptive acronyms. This one stands for "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition"

See also SNAFU and TARFU.


Hector The Inspector A taxman - a minion of Her Majesty's Inspector of Taxes, the Government department that deals with the collection of income tax from people, and Corporation tax from companies. The name comes from an advertising campaign, in which a cartoon bureaucrat, named Hector, gave friendly advice about how the (then new) self-assessment tax system was supposed to work, and what the individual taxpayer should do.


HMG Her Majesty's Government. Conventional term for the current incumbents of Government office in the UK. Intended to symbolise the role of the elected government as subordinate to the Monarch, since we have a constitutional Monarchy, where the Queen is the nominal head of government. In practice, if she did not give her 'Royal Assent' to any legislation passed by Parliament, there would be a constitutional crisis, with calls for the Queen's role as head of government to be removed.


Jobsworth Slang term for a, generally minor, official who replies "It's more than my job's worth" when asked to do something even slightly out of the ordinary. The term was coined by the television programme "That's Life" as part of their campaign against petty bureaucracy.


Jupiter Pluvious The chief Roman God, in his manifestation as the God of Rain.


LaserVision Domestic and semi-professional read-only video format, recording composite video on a 12 inch (30cm) disc, to be read with a laser pickup, similar to CD. The format is analogue, although there is an option for a digital soundtrack. The quality is considerably higher than VHS, but it died in the marketplace because it is not home-recordable.

It came in two flavours, CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) which would do still frame, and CLV (Constant Linear Velocity) which could pack more playing time on a disc. Even so, feature films would come on two sides, so you had to turn it over in the middle. The players would handle both flavours automatically.


Letterbox A technique of presenting a theatrical, widescreen movie on television, whereby the entire film image is shown in it's correct shape, with black bars at top and bottom of the screen.


Lurgy A word coined by the Goons, a group of radio comedians, in the 50s and 60s, for some weird disease necessary to the plot of one of their radio comedies, specifically, "Lurgy strikes Britain". It may be spelt "Lurgi", I don't know.


Merkin Slang name for Americans, mostly used to point up differences between UK and American English - e.g. Summer Time (Merkin: DST)

Derivation: say, "I am American", slurring it a bit, a la Humphrey Bogart. Cribbed from Jonathan Sturm, the Pompous Git


NTR Nothing To Report


oozelum bird fictitious creature, made famous in a song sung in the bar after a rugby game. The full text is not repeatable in polite company, but the bird's behaviour involves flying in ever-decreasing circles if attacked, until the inevitable happens.


PasB Programme as Broadcast. A recording of a television (or radio) programme, made as it is transmitted, in order that the programme may be repeated later, or merely kept for posterity. Originally a British Broadcasting Corporation term, now common currency throughout British television.


Pan-and-scan The technique of presenting a theatrical, widescreen movie on television by selecting a part of the film image and enlarging it to fill the screen. The selected part of the image is the full height, but only part of the width, and is moved from left to right to follow the action.

Now obsolete with the advent of widescreen television.


Phirrips Industry slang term for Royal Dutch Philips, BV, a large manufacturer of domestic and professional electronic equipment. I think it derived from an advertising campaign which had a punter ask, "Is it Japanese?" when shown a Philips TV, and the salesman said, "Of course. Look - Phirrips", thus playing on the alleged inability of the Japanese to pronounce the letter 'l', rendering it as 'r'.


P*ll*ck Derogatory term, not used in polite company, implying that the person referred to is seriously lacking in clue.


Poetsday Slang acronym: description of Friday - "P*ss Off Early, Tomorrow's SaturDAY"


porridge, stir of slang:  period of imprisonment.  Also used as " stir"= in prison, or "..doing porridge"= serving a prison sentence.


powernoia the fear of losing battery power to one or more of one's Personal Electronic Devices. This can frequently lead the sufferer to frantic searches for power sockets into which he can plug his device(s) Alternatively, other sufferers (like myself) may carry frankly ridiculous amounts of external battery capacity. Also known as "Smartphone Range Anxiety"


Private School A school which is run by a separate group of people, not the Government (who run the "State" schools) for fee. They tend to be smaller and/or less well-known than the "Public" schools, which are also fee-paying. (Note to Americans: your public schools are the same as our State schools).

The State schools are financed mainly from taxes, and everyone has the right to attend his local school until age 16 - indeed schooling of some form is compulsory until that age. It is permitted to educate one's child at home. Parents who educate their children outside the state system do not get a tax refund from the Government - that money is lost to them.


Quango QUasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation. A non-elected body, with a defined role in government - generally providing advice within a specific area of government responsibility. Supposedly non-political, but often stuffed with incumbent government placemen.


Semi-detached describes a technique of building houses, where two adjacent houses are built as one. The two residences are normally mirror images of each other, and share one wall. Each pair of houses is isolated from its neighbours by gardens, walkways or a driveway. see also detached


SNAFU The first of a series of descriptive acronyms. There are various claims as to the original usage, the one I favour suggests that the acronyms were coined by Bell System telephone engineers to describe the situation at a remote exchange. See here for another attribution. No one disputes the meaning, which runs "Situation Normal, All Fouled Up". I suspect that all three acronyms, in the form listed here, are bowdlerised - the word "fouled" was probably originally the rather more robust "F-word" which I will not repeat here - some younger, innocent person might read these words.

See also TARFU and FUBAR


SWMBO Acronym, standing for "She Who Must Be Obeyed" cf. H. Rider Haggard's novel, "She: A History of Adventure". Adopted courtesy Jonathan Sturm, the Pompous Git. In his usage, the term applies to his wife, Marguerite. I use the same convention.

Note: AOLPress won't let me put in the proper link. It objects to the colon immediately after "She". You will need to insert that manually when Wikipedia shows you the "Not Found" page.


TITSUP Slightly rude acronym, coined by The Register, a UK tech news site with a snarky and irreverent take on its subject matter. Expanded, the acronym becomes Total Inability To Support Usual Performance - or minor variations thereon.


TARFU The second of the series of descriptive acronyms, which, being expanded, reads "Things Are Really Fouled Up"

See also SNAFU and FUBAR


telecine device for converting pictures on cinema film to a television signal. In its simplest form this is a film projector pointed at a television camera. Modern telecines are much more complex than this and can produce superb pictures.


ukp Pound sterling. Unit of currency in the UK. I've used this convention in case the conventional symbol is not available in your browser. Exchange rate, about $US1.60, variable (in excess of $US1.90 in March 2007)


VAT Value Added Tax. UK and European tax, levied on any transaction where value is added, e.g. a sale, or remodelling of your house. The rate varies, depending on what goods or services are involved, and which country you are in, and is applied to the added value in the transaction - hence the name.


VTR Video Tape Recorder. The main piece of equipment I use in my work. Modern ones are like overgrown domestic video-cassette recorders, using similar but oversized cassettes, and can record to a much higher quality. They also cost a lot more (typically in excess of UKP40,000 or US$ 64,000)


WIBNI Wouldn't It Be Nice If...


wtf What The F..k (expletive, used for emphasis)