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"Wave a dead chicken over it."

Posted by Mikko on August 04, 2005

In Reply to: "Wave a dead chicken over it." posted by ESC on August 04, 2005

: : I am trying to track down the origin of the phrase "Wave a dead chicken over it." I have frequently heard this phrase used when someone is attempting to fix a balky mechanical or electronic device - especially a computer. Any ideas?

: : P.S. I just waved a dead chicken (well, a rubber chicken - that's certainly not alive) over my computer while posting this message ;-)

: I am thinking voodoo ritual or some other attempt at magically fixing something.

Wave a dead chicken is a saying which means to make a token effort (wave a dead chicken) which one knows will ultimately be completely useless but must be done nonetheless so others are satisfied that enough effort has been used to try and fix the problem.

"I'll wave a dead chicken over the source code, but I really think we've run into an OS bug." It is a reference to the ritual animal sacrifices that some religions believe can prompt supernatural entities to render assistance.

Compare voodoo programming, rain dance, casting the runes.

Voodoo programming (a term derived from 'voodoo economics') is a tongue-in-cheek term for using a programming device, system or language which you do not fully understand. The implication is that the end result should not actually work, or even if it does work you will not know why. The term can also apply to doing something which you know should not work, but actually does work, such as recompiling some code which refuses to compile the first time.

It is similar to black magic, except that black magic typically isn't documented and nobody understands it.

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