Coined by Carlin Vieri in his time at the MIT AI Lab (1993–1998) after viewing a segment at the end of a 1991 episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show. The segment featured “Yak Shaving Day,” a Christmas-like Holiday where participants hang diapers instead of stockings, stuff rubber boots with coleslaw, and watch for the shaven yak to float by in his enchanted canoe.
- 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.
- A less useful activity done consciously or subconsciously to 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.
- For quotations using this term, see Citations:yak shaving.
- when you're up to your neck in alligators, it's hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp
- ^ Brown, Jeremy, “Yak Shaving”, in (please provide the title of the work), MIT, 2000-02-11, archived from the original on 2021-01-12, retrieved 2014-02-02
- ^ Vieri, Carlin, “Talk:yak shaving”, in (please provide the title of the work), 2008-06-05 comment from Vieri.
- ^ “The Boy Who Cried Rat!”, in The Ren & Stimpy Show, season 1, episode 3b/6, written by Vincent Waller; John K., 8 September 1991