Microspeak: Turds

In Microspeak, a turd is a graphics glitch which results in old pixels appearing on the screen when they shouldn't. Perhaps they are not being erased properly, or instead of being erased, they move to an unwanted location. The source of the problem could be failing to mark a region for redrawing after something changed, or it could be that the drawing code ran into a problem and failed to draw over the old pixels. The problem might be that the code whose job it is to remove the object from the screen ran into a problem and didn't actually remove it, resulting in an on-screen object that nobody really is keeping track of. Whatever the reason, these "junk pixels" go by the name turds.

For non-English speakers: turd is a boorish term for dung.

The term turds are more generally applied to objects that don't serve any purpose but never got cleaned up. For example, they might be files and registry keys that didn't get deleted when you uninstalled an application, or user accounts for employees who left the company years ago, or C++ objects that some code forgot to delete. If you upgrade your dogfood machine from build to build, there may be files left over from earlier builds that aren't being used by the product any more. A build system may create temporary files that only get erased up when you do a "make clean".

Note that this particular term turd is not formal Microspeak. You won't find it in a specifications document. But you may encounter it in a bug report or hear it in a casual discussion. Personally, I don't use the term. For the graphics glitches, I prefer to use the word artifact. The leftover stuff that didn't get cleaned up I simply call dirt.

Bonus chatter: There was one project that actually tried to introduce the word turd as a formal technical term:

If a transaction has been superseded by another transaction, a marker is left behind in the original transaction record which redirects the resolver to the new transaction. This marker is known as the Transaction Under Redirection Descriptor (TURD).

I bet the developer who came up with that spent way too much time making up turd-related jokes in other parts of the specification.

Comments (29)
  1. BOFH says:

    Wasn't there a type of graphical artifact from around the Windows 3.x era that were known as mouse droppings?

  2. MarcBernard says:

    We call this sort of thing 'cruft'.

  3. Jake says:

    I always like the term "detritus" for the leftover files, keys, etc.

  4. alegr1 says:

    Turds don't ever get fixed. A TURD existing since XP came out (non-client area in the corner between scrollbars not being erased) is still there even in SP3.

    Also, edit control scrolling in Win7 is broken sometimes. Will be there forever.

  5. Thomas Winwood says:

    I've always thought the useful thing about <i>turd</i> versus <i>dirt</i> or <i>cruft</i> is that it's a count noun – you can have a turd left in the registry, or lots of little turds all over the screen. It's also pithier than <i>artifact</i>, and reinforces the idea that computing should be increasingly something we incorporate into our lives (and give appropriately basal vocabulary) rather than a sacred and mystical practice.

  6. Marc, Crufts is a dog show! Commence dogfood jokes


  7. Shawn Hargreaves says:

    I believe this term originated with the 'turds' left by a common mouse handling bug on ancient non-Microsoft operating systems. Before the advent of hardware mouse cursors in display hardware, mouse drivers often worked like so:

       whenever mouse moves:

           restore previously saved image that used to be under the cursor

           store image that is under the new cursor location

           draw the cursor

    If an application redrew their window contents while the mouse was visible over that window, the mouse driver would be left with a stale copy of the previously saved image.  Next time the mouse moved, it would restore this stale data, leaving a 'mouse dropping' or 'turd' on the screen.

    The fix was to always hide the mouse cursor before redrawing the screen, then show it again at the end of the draw function.

    I'm not sure if Windows ever suffered from this issue (before my time!) but mouse turds were a common bug in Atari applications.

  8. Jeffdav says:

    Don't forget UrlTurds.  Those were the best.  Er, worst.  Data stored in the Url string after the null terminator.  Horrible horribleness.

  9. alegr1 says:


    That's what I meant. That square is not erased correctly in NCPAINT.

  10. Jason says:

    That developer's last name didn't happen to be <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch, did it?

  11. @WndSks, @alegr1: what are you guys talking about?  All I get is a 1×1 PNG file at the link WndSks posted.

  12. alegr1 says:


    No problems with IE8. And also no problem with SaveAs and Picture Viewer.

  13. Mike says:

    For non-Cockney Rhyming Slang speakers, "Richards" is an obscure term for turds. (via "Richard the Third")

  14. Antonio Rodríguez says:

    We call these things "cosmetic bugs": bugs that affect the way data is shown on screen, or screen drawing itself, but don't affect data integrity or impede functionality.

    @alegr1: if you use the term "cosmetic bug", you'll understand why it hasn't been fixed in any SP: for compatibility reasons, Microsoft tries to make as few changes in an SP as possible, and a cosmetic bug it ugly, but is hardly an important problem.

  15. David Walker says:

    @Wndsks: Some "cosmetic bugs" might be due to the video driver, and not due to code in XP.    I have never seen that artifact in my life, and I use 5 computers regularly (two of which still use Windows XP).

  16. codin says:

    "For non-English speakers: turd is a boorish term for dung."

    I think non-English speakers might understand "turd" better than "dung", and both better than "boorish".

  17. Krunch says:

    non-English speakers are unlikely to read a blog written in English</nitpicking>

    In a previous company a customer once reported a bug by saying the screen was "dirty like zebra". The term stuck to refer to all kind of graphic bugs (I cannot find the original report, might not be public): bugzilla.redhat.com/buglist.cgi

  18. voo says:

    @codin While I completely agree with you, the thought is what counts isn't it?

  19. alegr1 says:


    This bug is very easy to repro:

    1. Configure the taskbar to autohide. (XP graphic styles should be enabled. Doesn't happen with Win2K style).
    2. Open the maximized Explorer window with enough folders and columns to have both scrollbars, and with no status bar.

    3. Have the taskbar appear and disappear.

    4. The square in the corner will now have the remnants of the taskbar color.

    In other words, that area is not repainted if it was uncovered by another window. You can also move another window over that area.

  20. Antonio Rodríguez says:

    @David Walker: in the last ten years, I have run XP in five different computers (two desktops, a laptop and two netbooks) and dozens of virtual machines (under everything from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 7 x64), and that cosmetic bug has shown in every one of them. The steps alegr1 gives allow you to reproduce it, but there is a simpler procedure:

    1) Open Notepad.

    2) Uncheck the Format->Word wrap command, so both scroll bars are visible.

    3) Slowly move another window (i.e., Calculator) over the size square in the bottom right corner.

    I always have visual styles activated. Maybe it doesn't happen in classic ("Windows 2000") mode – I can't say.

  21. cheong00 says:

    And we call these kind of things "garbage bits" or just "garbage".

  22. Simon says:

    "Turd" is a term I'd usually see and use in connection with entire pieces of software, rather than rendering glitches like this. As in, this application is a giant steaming turd…

  23. ASK says:

    We call it 'screen poo'. For example: Doing X results in screen poo.

  24. Engywuck says:

    @Antonio Rodriguez: tested Win7 Prox x32 on PC and W2k8R2 in XenServer, cannot reproduce.

  25. @Engywuck says:

    Not surprising, because they talk about a bug with the theming on XP. With Vista, theming has changed a lot.

  26. Steve Wisnieski says:

    When I was in Basic Training in the Army back in 1976, our Drill Sergeants would call us a "turd"….Trainee Under Rapid Development :-))

  27. Danny says:

    In Microspeak, a turd is a graphics glitch….</quote>

    In GuildWars speak a turd is a person who fails at high end farming areas to do his job as he previously bragged, mainly this is used in TWAY UWSC.

  28. Engywuck says:

    Well, he wrote "I have run XP in five different computers (two desktops, a laptop and two netbooks) and dozens of virtual machines (under everything from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 7 x64), and that cosmetic bug has shown in every one of them. " Since I doubt virtual machines are common with NT4 as *host* I have read this as "I have tested NT4 to 7×64 and found that problem everywhere". If he really means he has run XP as guest on a NT4 host I gratulate him for having one of the most obscure setups in VM world imaginable :-)

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content