Do You Speak LEGO?

Geek Culture

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Image by Flickr user 713 Avenue.

What do you call a 4-stud by 2-stud standard LEGO brick? Certainly not “4-stud by 2-stud standard LEGO brick,” I’ll bet. Indeed, we probably all have our own names for many LEGO parts. And that brings up a truly interesting question of language for Giles Turnbull, a contributing writer for The Morning News (and a GeekDad, even if he doesn’t yet realize it). In his new story, he goes searching for A Common Nomenclature for LEGO Families:

Typically, we will build spaceships. I’ll commence work on a solid chassis on which to hang all the fancy bits—the wings, superfluous for space flight but essential for seven-year-olds—and the greebles that make everything look, you know, more spaceship-y. My son will cast around for people-bits, with which to fabricate a spaceship pilot and perhaps a co-pilot. They will all need light sabers, of course. And control panels that move.

So each of us has a clear idea of which pieces we’re after, and two enormous plastic crates full of Lego from which to extract them.

It’s a scene that is replayed by kids and parents everywhere. And it’s the starting point for a unique quirk of language: Lego nomenclature.

Every family, it seems, has its own set of words for describing particular Lego pieces. No one uses the official names. “Dad, please could you pass me that Brick 2×2?” No. In our house, it’ll always be: “Dad, please could you pass me that four-er?”

And I’ll pass it, because I know exactly which piece he means. Lego nomenclature is essential for family Lego building.

Check out the article where he lists the name each of four kids has for the same LEGO pieces. While many are similar, no two are the same, which probably says a lot about language and development. And leave your own family LEGO nomenclature in the comments!

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