yak shaving

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Coined by Carlin Vieri in his time at the MIT AI Lab (1993-8)[1] after viewing[2] a 1991 episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show featuring "Yak Shaving Day," a Christmas-like Holiday where participants hang diapers instead of stockings, stuff rubber boots with cole slaw, and watch for the shaven yak to float by in his enchanted canoe.

Noun[edit]

yak shaving (uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic) Any apparently useless activity which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allows you to solve a larger problem.
    I was doing a bit of yak shaving this morning, and it looks like it might have paid off.
  2. (idiomatic) A less useful activity done to consciously or unconsciously procrastinate about a larger but more useful task.
    I looked at a reference manual for my car just to answer one question, but I spent the whole afternoon with my nose buried in it, just yak shaving, and got no work done on the car itself.

Quotations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brown, Jeremy (2000-02-11), "Yak Shaving", URL accessed on 2014-02-02.
  2. ^ Vieri, Carlin (2008-06-05), "Talk:yak shaving", comment from Vieri.