At FunkyEnglish, we’re passionate about both technology and language learning. We believe that learning language through interesting and relevant topics is an effective way to improve language skills. That’s why we’ve compiled some of our favorite technology-related idioms and expressions in this article – Speak Like a Tech Pro: Understanding Common Computer Idioms.

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, the use of tech idioms has become increasingly common in everyday conversations and in communications within the tech industry. English language learners interested in pursuing a career in tech or wanting to improve their technical vocabulary will find it essential to learn these idioms. In this article, we’ll explore common computer idioms and their origins, as well as some interesting phrases inspired by science fiction.

Part 1: Common Tech Idioms and Their Origins

  • 404 error – This is a common error message that appears when a webpage cannot be found. It has become a popular phrase to describe anything that is missing or unavailable.
  • Backdoor – A backdoor is a hidden method of bypassing normal authentication or security measures in a computer system or network. It has become a phrase to describe any secret or sneaky way of doing things.
  • Black box – This expression refers to a computing system that is opaque or difficult to understand. Black box is often used to describe any processes or systems that are seen as mysterious, impenetrable, or difficult to comprehend.
  • Blue screen of death – This is an error screen that appears in Microsoft Windows when the operating system encounters a critical error. This expression has become a phrase to describe any catastrophic failure or crash.
Blue Screen Of Death
Blue screen of death
  • Cutting edge – The forefront of something new and innovative. This idiom refers to the most advanced stage of development in a particular field or industry.
  • Garbage in, garbage out – This phrase, often abbreviated as GIGO, refers to the idea that flawed input will result in flawed output. It originated in the early days of computing when programmers had to manually input data, and mistakes could result in significant errors in output.
  • Kill your darlings – This phrase, which originated in the writing world, has become popular in the tech industry as a reminder to be willing to abandon or rework ideas that may not be working, even if they are beloved.
  • On the fly – This phrase refers to doing something quickly or improvising as you go along. In computer science, it can refer to modifying code or settings in real-time without stopping the system.
  • Plug and play – This expression is used to describe hardware or software that can be used immediately without any setup or configuration required.
  • Reboot – To reboot means to restart a computer or device. Reboot has now become a more broadly used term to describe starting over or trying again.
    • “To reboot the economy after the recession, the government implemented a stimulus package to create jobs and boost consumer spending.”
  • Sandbox – This term originated in the software development world to refer to a protected environment for testing new code or software. Today, it’s often used more broadly to refer to any safe space for experimentation or exploration.

Part 2: Popular Expressions from Science Fiction

In the realm of sci-fi (science fiction), The Matrix franchise popularized the expression bullet time which refers to a slow-motion effect that allows the viewer to see individual bullets flying through the air. In the tech world, bullet time has been used to describe a computer’s ability to slow down or pause an action, giving the user time to react or make a decision.

Another popular term that originated in sci-fi is cyberspace, coined by William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer. Cyberspace refers to the virtual world created by computer networks and the internet. Today, we use the term to describe anything related to online activities, including e-commerce, social media, and virtual reality.

The term worm as a computer virus originated from John Brunner‘s 1975 novel, The Shockwave Rider. In the book, a character uses a self-replicating program to gain access to a computer network. Today, we use the term worm to refer to a type of malicious software that can spread through a network and cause damage.

So long, and thanks for all the fish is a phrase from Douglas Adams‘ book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – as well as the title of the fourth book in the six part ‘trilogy’! It’s a line spoken by dolphins as they leave the Earth just before it’s destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass. The phrase has since become an idiom for saying goodbye or expressing gratitude in a lighthearted way.

SO long, and thanks for all the fish

May 4th is known as Star Wars Day, a special day that celebrates the Star Wars franchise created by George Lucas. The date was chosen because of a play on words – May the Fourth sounds similar to the iconic phrase May the Force be with you from the Star Wars films. Star Wars Day is celebrated by fans all over the world, who often dress up as their favorite characters, have movie marathons, attend fan conventions, or engage in other activities related to Star Wars. The day has become an important cultural phenomenon, reflecting the enduring popularity and impact of the Star Wars universe on generations of fans.

In Star Trek the phrase resistance is futile was famously uttered by the Borg, a race of cyborgs who seek to assimilate other species into their collective consciousness. The phrase has since become a popular idiom, often used to indicate that a situation is inevitable or that one should give up trying to resist.

These are just a few examples of how sci-fi and tech have influenced each other over the years, leading to the creation of many commonly used idioms and phrases in the tech industry.


Learning tech idioms and phrases can be challenging, but it’s important for anyone who wants to work in the tech industry or communicate effectively with tech professionals. By understanding these common computer idioms and expressions, you’ll be able to better navigate the world of technology and communicate more effectively with others. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced professional, take the time to familiarise yourself with these important terms and idioms, and you’ll be well on your way to speaking like a tech pro!

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