There are a lot of constants in the Kernel named with HORKAGE,


However, these are not really documented

Force horkage according to libata.force and whine about it. For consistency with link selection, device number 15 selects the first device connected to the host link.

What does "horkage" mean?

  • Great question, but I guess only the author of those lines may be able to answer it ;) The wiktionary entry doesn't shed much light, and UrbanDictionary is best avoided ;)
    – tink
    Jul 29, 2023 at 22:34
  • @tink I guess someone here would know, let's give it some time. Jul 29, 2023 at 22:45
  • 11
    @tink, when asking about computer terminology, the Jargon File is generally a much better resource than Urban Dictionary.
    – Mark
    Jul 30, 2023 at 7:52
  • @Mark Updated my answer with a link the Jargon File, cool resource never found that. Jul 30, 2023 at 17:46
  • I have a terrible suspicion that Bob and Doug McKenzie are behind this somehow: youtube.com/watch?v=7hfRActkm-U Jul 31, 2023 at 17:45

4 Answers 4


It seems like the term Horkage was introduced with this patch by Alan Cox. The term "hork" means

(computing, slang) To foul up; to be occupied with difficulty, tangle, or unpleasantness; to be broken. I downloaded the program, but something is horked and it won't load.

You can also see this in The Jargon File's Glossary under "horked"

Broken. Confused. Trashed. Now common; seems to be post-1995. There is an entertaining web page of related definitions, few of which seem to be in live use but many of which would be in the recognition vocabulary of anyone familiar with the adjective.

The horkage list is a list of blacklisted functionality because hardware manufacturers failed to implement it properly ("horked" the implementation).


"Hork" is the sound of someone vomiting - much like "ribbit" is the sound a frog makes (according to English speakers in much of North America). A program returning an error or throwing an exception is often anthropomorphized as if the program were vomiting. "Hork" is slang for the sound, and apparently this was incorporated into parts of the kernel source code.

  • Also the beginning of a wet throat clearing. "To hork up". "He horked up and spat".
    – waltinator
    Jul 30, 2023 at 20:17
  • Illustrated, even: johnhartstudios.com/bc/2023/07/30/sunday-july-30-2023
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 31, 2023 at 16:05
  • 1
    The word you seem to be looking for is onomatopoeia
    – sehe
    Aug 1, 2023 at 15:12
  • @sehe I didn't write "onomatopoeia" because a lot of people don't recognize the meaning of the word.
    – Sotto Voce
    Aug 2, 2023 at 3:49

To delve into the depths of history, one must turn to the ancient archives: Usenet, that is.

The oldest use of "horkage" is 1991/04/12 by Shaun Case in comp.os.msdos.programmer:

If you are interested in this program, check your local list of newsgroups for c.b.i.p. and engage in major horkage.

Notice that there is no sense of "broken" here; "horkage" is being used in the ordinary sense of "hork": "to vomit" (onomatopoeia).

The oldest use in the other sense (which I was not familiar with before doing this research) is 1997/04/11 by Jose Nazario on misc.forsale.computers.workstation, but more interesting is the response by Thomas Gunnar Sparks:

: >>try and isolate horkage before your morning coffee.
: I have to ask... just what, exactly, is "horkage"?
I remember hearing the term when I started BBSing many moons ago... I first heard them uttered from some Berkleyites, specifically tjames :)

There was a Timothy James doing an undergrad at Berkeley at the right time, but I wasn't able to track anything further.

Also of note is this question regarding the related "horked" by Walter Howard in alt.folklore.computers on 1994/02/10:

hork - 1. transitive, destroy. "When he booted the new version it horked the entire database".
2. intransitive, die, crash. "OS/2 went to access the partition table and then it just horked".

The replies mention that "hork" can also be used for "to steal", particularly in Canadian.

  • The McKenzie Brothers definitely use it in the sense of “somehow obtain”. Aug 1, 2023 at 2:34

Did I just drop into a parallel universe where only this word has changed?

It's B0rk (or Bork, Borked, Borken) as derived from a typo of 'broken'. It dates back to the early/mid-60s.

Given the typographic similarties between 'b' and 'h' I have to assume the originator of 'hork' saw a misprinted instance of 'bork', perhaps on a bad photocopy or early scanner output.

  • As it happens, I just read a usage of "hurk" in the vomiting sense in 2018 web serial. Baader-Meinhof in action
    – muru
    Jul 31, 2023 at 13:10
  • I thought origin of 'Borked' was related to the failed nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987. Are you sure the usage predates that?
    – JimmyJames
    Jul 31, 2023 at 20:17
  • In my origin universe, yes. But given the downvotes on my answer, in this universe there's no such usage. And yes, I'm serious - if I ever thought the Mandela Effect was a joke, I'm not laughing now. I know for a fact that this word is at least 50 years old because I first encountered it as a teen in an early-80s printed interview with an MIT alum who'd used it himself in the previous decade after adopting it from a tutor, and I adopted it myself from that point. There is at least one other person from my universe though: news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21901171 Aug 1, 2023 at 8:20
  • I’ve no idea which actually came first but I must admit I had exactly the same thought since ‘borked’ is a term I’ve known for decades from programming forums
    – James
    Aug 1, 2023 at 10:26

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