Learn to Speak DBA Slang


Ever wonder what those big-company DBAs are saying when they start busting out the cryptic terms?  Learn the slang of database administrators with this handy reference guide.

Wizard of Oz – admin who makes everyone think things are automated, but he’s really just duct taping things together. “The executives think we’ve got a reporting dashboard, but the Wizard of Oz over there is just copy/pasting data into Excel and hitting Insert Chart before he prints it out.”

Food court – consolidated server with a bunch of unrelated databases. Typically not known for high quality. “The marketing team wants to install a social media program that needs a database, but they don’t have any budget. Put them in the food court.”

The last guy – the speaker in a previous time frame, like yesterday. Used for blaming someone else when it’s the speaker’s own fault.

How RAID 0 looks in the ads.
Photo by Soapbeard

Ride the unicycle – use RAID 0. “The food court was begging for faster performance, so the last guy decided to ride the unicycle.”

Suicide – killing your own query.

Genocide – killing all queries from a certain application

Two Men and a Truck – generic name for ETL programs like SQL Server Integration Services, Informatica, and DataStage. “We need a nightly job to get data from the sales system to the reporting server. Call Two Men and a Truck.”

Play Tetris – shrinking databases on a server with limited space. “We ran out of space on the L drive again. Run interference while I play Tetris.”

Tinted windows – encryption. “Tell the developers to put tinted windows on the web site database before somebody puts our password list on WikiLeaks.”

Van down by the river – server running ancient, unsupported software. Named because it’s the last thing a database ever sees before it shuffles off this mortal coil.

Blimp – monitoring software. “Jobs are failing all over the place. How’s it look from the blimp?”

100% delicious.
Photo by elizaIO

The Bakery – the department that produces pie charts. Sometimes referred to as Bakery Incorporated.

Escalate it to the documentation team – search Google.

Open a global support ticket – create a StackOverflow question.

56K modem – PCI Express solid state drive like FusionIO or OCZ Z-Drive. Named for their physical resemblance.

Keyser Soze – DBA or developer who looks ordinary but has insanely good skills, hardly anybody knows about it. Taken from the movie The Usual Suspects where the mythical main villain, Keyser Soze, is right in the middle of the group the whole time.

Smoking filtered cigarettes – doing something that appears safe but is really still dangerous.

Groundhog Day – ETL job that reloads all data from scratch every day rather than efficiently processing just the changed data. “The Wizard of Oz populates the database alright – it’s Groundhog Day at midnight.”

Saving Private Ryan – trying to do a row-level restore. Management usually calls for this task without understanding the complexity.

Fireworks store – dangerous server that crashes all the time. “Ever since the Wizard of Oz started writing his own backup software, the food court is turning into a fireworks store.”

Health Insurance – a current backup. “Make sure he has health insurance before you put a 56k modem in him.”

Read the paper – scan the event log looking for problems. “The job failed again last night. I’m going to read the paper.”

Group of blade servers in the wild.
Photo by Kismihok

Trailer park – blade server chassis. “The manufacturing team is bringing in a few new apps next quarter. Is there space in the trailer park?”

Blue jeans – full backups nightly.

Business casual – full backups nightly, log shipping every few minutes. “Does the new project server need blue jeans or business casual?”

Three piece suit – intricate high availability and disaster recovery strategy including clustering, mirroring, and log shipping.

Take a picture, it’ll last longer – advises the listener to perform a snapshot backup to make rollbacks easier. “You’ve been staring at that deployment script for an hour now. Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”

Value meal – Standard Edition server with the database engine, SSIS, SSAS, and SSRS all installed. “They needed SharePoint in a hurry so I gave ’em a value meal.”

Updating the last step in the Disaster Recovery Plan – working on your résumé.

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40 Comments. Leave new

  • I have never heard of any of these, but I’m going to to my darndest to make these catch on.

    New item on my bucket list: To have a conversation that goes something like this:

    “The Wizard of Oz had the food court riding on a unicycle but after Keyser Soze from the Bakery set up a value meal with jeans and got things turned around.”


    “Jim, the business analyst”

    “Really? Wow. Who knew.”

  • Somebody, somewhere, has just had the end of Usual Suspects ruined for them!

  • Very funny, but scary. I think I saw myself in a couple of the categories :(. Good job.

  • In 12+ years, I’ve never heard a single one of these used. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

  • This is a riot! Many thanks to everything that you all contribute to the SQL community. 🙂

  • This is great. I’m going to start working these into my work conversations

  • Dont try these at home, your nearer/dearer will feel for you. 🙂 only at work to scare the s**t out of colleagues. ;p

  • I LOVE that I now have a name for that server…. “the food court”. Made my day. Best post ever… or at least the last couple days.

  • This is awesome!!! Thanks for the post…

  • Ed Leighton-Dick
    October 4, 2012 1:39 pm

    Those. Are. Awesome. I’m definitely going to have to try to work a few into conversations. 😀

  • Larry Toothman
    October 4, 2012 4:38 pm

    Who knew? I’ve been working in the food court all day after helping with a move in the trailer court!

  • Reply
  • Oh my, this is fantastic. Thanks for the lulz.

  • Classic, love it.

  • Hilarious… though I’ve only heard of “The Last Guy” because I’ve had bad experience with what he or she had left me to work with. I’m probably someone’s “The Last Guy” at this point.

  • LOL… Never heard most of them but very amusing and recognizable…. Started wondering right away if I knew of any Dutch equivalents…


  • This post had me in stitches! seriously funny, and highlights a whole new level of DBA communication paradigm.

  • Haven’t across them in the wild, but most do make sense.
    Very good!

  • Garry Houghton
    October 8, 2012 8:16 am

    I’ll for sure be using “I’ll have to escalate that to the documentation team”. Thanks for making me chuckle today on a few of these. “Food Court” just awesome.

  • Been a DBA for a long time, never heard of these, but got to admit, they fit. Too Funny!!! Had to share the 56KModem with our storage guy 🙂

  • Thanks for spoiling the plot of Usual Suspects!! one of the best movies ever.

  • Never heard any of these in all my years and I don’t plan on encouraging the use of any of them. Oh and, “resume generating event” should have made the list.

  • I am the Wizard of Oz, and most of the ETL processes I manage are Groundhog day (I didn’t write them, but have not had the chance to change them)

  • Van down by the river hahahahaha!!! Hmmm what to call it when you have a fleet of vans down by the river… lol!

  • Eric, That’s called a “Rainbow Gathering” 🙂

    Brent, Great list, Going to have to start using some of those. 🙂

  • AAron Leckinger
    October 10, 2012 12:06 pm

    These are glorious, thank you, Brent!

  • Data Mall…when you go from a strip mall (2 node cluster) to 3 or more nodes, you’ve got a data mall.

  • These are great! Something to add to the already growing list of jargon when talking about tech-stuff; but, to non-techies, you may get away with completely plausible sentences even though you’re having your own back-door techie conversations. Just like the “Fireworks Store”. It’s great, thanks for the nice laugh.

  • Luis Marquez
    June 7, 2013 5:56 pm

    We had one that combined the goodness of a food court and a fireworks store. This was a massive consolidated server instance that hosted numerous databases that were all business critical, added over a period of several years.

    Because it was so critical, for years everyone was afraid to update it, even though its version of SQL server had not been out of support for years. It just hummed along, a massive disaster waiting to happen, and everyone was afraid to do anything about it.

    We called it the Exxon Valdez.

    • Kendra Little
      June 7, 2013 6:02 pm

      Hehe — I started reading this comment in the WordPress UI before I realized what post it was on and I assumed it was spam. My thought, “wow, we’re getting spam comments about food courts and fireworks???”

      It all makes sense now. Carry on. 🙂

    • Priceless!

  • New job – lots of food courts on value meals…

  • I have a name for the server…”the food court”. Made my day. Best post ever… or at best the last couple days

  • Love this, its now my mission to include as many of these as possible in meetings

  • Worth reading for ‘Food Court’ alone.

  • […] likely to disable a downstream system. The instance from which we were migrating was a bit of a food court, so before signing off I opened SSMS to check on some other system issue… and found I could no […]

  • 2 adds for your consideration:

    “Chernobyl”: SQL instance where NOLOCK is used extensively, backups are not functioning, no dba. Services payroll, ERP, and benefits applications. Not great, not terrible…

    “Clippy dba”: dba takes whatever the optimizer recommends and rolls with it. 100s of unused indices. Actual data storage is around 100mb, overall footprint 5gb and growing. Applications regularly grind to a halt mid-morning.

    • I’ll accept Keyser Soze 🙂 if only in my head!

      Heres one for your list –

      The Clown Car: A sql server with an availability group containing 100+ databases where users are all granted db_owner.

      The Mathematician: A user that wants indices instead of indexes.

      The Oregon Trail: A distributed availability group with the primary on the east coast and secondary on the west coast.

  • I love this!! I’ll be using these today to mess with the developers, especially since we had a P1 yesterday and stayed up till 5 am. They could use the laugh ?.


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