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November 5, 2009 11:39 AM   Subscribe

A Common Nomenclature for Lego Families.
posted by Iridic (49 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is very excellent. Thank you!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:42 AM on November 5, 2009


A ethnographic linguistic thesis in the making.
posted by GuyZero at 11:50 AM on November 5, 2009


Oh, this is fun.

I find it very amusing that Lego's official name for one of them was "light BLADE [etc.]", but all of the kids surveyed universally called it the "light SABER [etc.]".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Legos? So that's what you call those bumpy plastic brick-things!
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2009


No one uses the official names. “Dad, please could you pass me that Brick 2x2?”

We do, at least for bricks, because this:

“Dad, please could you pass me that four-er?”

Is ambiguous. Do you mean a 1x4 or a 2x2? Also, do you mean a full thickness brick or a "flat" 1/3 height one?

(Also, we call the gray and black technic pins "stubbins" and the extra long ones are "double stubbins").
posted by DU at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2009


Lego-brand FamiliesTM
posted by blue_beetle at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2009


damnit, metafilter, stop making me want to have children. this article is like an amplifier for my biological clock. I want to make babies so i can play legos with them. gaaah.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


In order: overhang, light, vertical clip, flat onesy, clip, cube onesy, small onesy, cannonball, half-tube, wheely square, jewel, frog eye, grate, ???, ???, wheely square (again; why would you even separate the upper and lower?), reverse slanty four piece, plug-in twosy, ???, thick four piece, torch, tall thin slanty, three-piece, ???, wheel center, wing, fire, angle-up, thick three-by-two, back of the plane, monitor controls, robot head, headlight holder
posted by Greg Nog at 11:54 AM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Max's the best: Golden Wipers, Jail Snail, The Jaguar's Jewel (I realize these are likely the names of them from sets ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:55 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, a bunch of these pieces didn't even exist.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:55 AM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


They only had a couple of the most basic bricks? You know, the '1 by 4's and the '1 by 6's and the '2 by 4's. So many specialty pieces. I figured what they were getting at was a nomenclature for the basic pieces. Kid's these days and their single-purpose Lego bricks!
posted by Phantomx at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


They chose lots of specialized pieces; it'd be interesting to know more about the generic bricks too, the 2x4s, 2x8s etc that the illustration shows. Do the kids give each of those a unique funky name too, or do they all arrive at a similar generalization?

(And I have no memory of giving pieces names as a kid. Maybe I always thought of them by shape rather than by name? I was usually a solo Lego-player so the "find me an X" question didn't arise often.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Legos? So that's what you call those bumpy plastic brick-things!
Yeah, it's missing the 'Legos' tag.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2009


1X2, red, thin. 2X3, black, thick. etc. That's really all you need because everything else is a special piece and if your brother thinks he can get you to search out, or worse give up, a special piece for him... well he can just go straight to hell.

"Oh, you need a computer screen? You should've grabbed one before I built my Evil Doom Lab Control Center. What? That screen isn't yours. I don't care if you got it with that space kit on your birthday, it's in the community box now. First come first serve. No, you're an idiot. And your clothes are dumb too. No one likes you! The dog likes me better!" [physical altercation begins here]
posted by Science! at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


I reject this based on the premise that an individual would actually share their legos with someone else. What is this share?
posted by Think_Long at 12:01 PM on November 5, 2009


Metafilter: I want to make babies so I can play legos with them.
posted by xedrik at 12:05 PM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Max's the best: Golden Wipers, Jail Snail, The Jaguar's Jewel

Yeah, that kid's a total poet.

I always played legos alone, so I had no use for names for them. To my mother they were all YERGODDAMNEDLEGOS, as in "Phoebe, get YERGODDAMNEDLEGOS off the floor! I keep stepping on them!"

:(
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:11 PM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


(But wait! Angular Brick 1x1 is totally "the camera"! Maybe my childhood wasn't as drab and lonely as previously thought!)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:12 PM on November 5, 2009


Incorrect, PhoBWanKenobi. That's obviously a "headlight".
posted by Liver at 12:16 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I definitely prefer Jem's list, if only because I'd actually understand her when she asks for a piece. Max's list is imaginative, but that's better for when you're playing with the completed models, not when you're asking for a part.

I rarely "played" Legos when I was a kid. I built the models, tore them apart, built my own models, etc. It was definitely a construction toy for me, and Playmobil seemed vastly inferior because all you could do was play with them rather than doing anything fun.
posted by explosion at 12:40 PM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


All I know is that my two nieces now possess my vast collection, and they may call the pieces whatever they wish. Whenever we build together it's usually "you got one of these?" or "anybody got a thingee like this?"
posted by pyrex at 12:52 PM on November 5, 2009


I want to make babies so i can play legos with them.

My sister and I had the kick ass collection of legos growing up. When we moved out and my family sold the old homestead, I literally had to drive 4 hours overnight to rescue the giant bin that mom was "just going give to the neighbor kid since you guys aren't using them for anything." Over the past 20 years, I have hauled that thing from coast to coast, probably through 10 different living spaces. My son is now 6 months old. I figure I've got about four more years to go. Sometimes when my boy's asleep I just open up that giant plastic box and run my fingers through the pieces. This is probably what it feels like to cash in your 401K.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:55 PM on November 5, 2009 [17 favorites]


I almost always played with my Legos alone so I didn't really need an lexicon for requesting help from someone else. I did need one, though, to keep in mind what I was looking for and not lose focus and start a new design in the midst of searching for a piece for the current design. As such I spent a lot of time muttering to myself while I looked, "Black flat 2 by 8. Black flat 2 by 8. Black flat 2 by 8. Grey hinge 2 by 1. Grey hinge 2 by 1."

I can remember one occasion playing with Legos at someone else's house. This kid was concerned with structural strength. Be wanted things that would survive being thrown across the room or smashed into each other. In pursuit of this, he would use pieces of random color as long as they were the right shape. If the shape wasn't quite right he'd let a few blocks jag out from a smooth wall. This gave me absolute heebee jeebies. I would rebuild from the ground up to account for a missing piece of the right color or shape.
posted by Babblesort at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


My son is now 6 months old. I figure I've got about four more years to go.

Hell no. We started at three. Took a while to get any dexterity with the tiny pieces, and we have had Big Fights about not taking Legos to bed and sucking on them like candy so you can choke and die, but otherwise, it's all good. In about 2.5 years, haul those suckers out.

(in the meantime, they make those giant Duplo whatsits for little kiddos, good for practice)
posted by emjaybee at 1:11 PM on November 5, 2009


this kid was concerned with structural strength

reminds me of the only time I played legos with someone else, and I had to teach him how to stagger your bricks when building a wall. The fool was just building them straight up in columns. This also marks the first time I called a person a fool to their face, it was fantastic.
posted by Think_Long at 1:15 PM on November 5, 2009 [19 favorites]


Sometimes when my boy's asleep I just open up that giant plastic box and run my fingers through the pieces.

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my Legos you'll be."
posted by bondcliff at 1:16 PM on November 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


So, who has a link to the official nomenclature for every Lego piece ever made?
posted by Irontom at 1:18 PM on November 5, 2009


Structural strength is way more important than color cohesity. A great deal of our bricks were destroyed in car crashing contests where we built the most solid car (or occasionally, boat) we could and then smash them into each other from across the room. The inclusion of some but not too many Technic pieces in our box made this somewhat technical at times. Shock absorbers, steam roller style fronts with lots of big tires, ballast weights from the ship set. It was pretty awesome.
posted by Authorized User at 1:23 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, who has a link to the official nomenclature for every Lego piece ever made?

Link

From here.
posted by bondcliff at 1:32 PM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Holy cow... that Peeron site is amazing with all the instructions it has for old sets. That means I can resurrect my old London Bus, which has been in pieces for the past 30 years and is now floating around in my son's Lego bins. It would be like bringing it back from the dead.
posted by crapmatic at 1:44 PM on November 5, 2009


Me and my friends mostly used the "2 by" nomenclature, but we always referred to the bumps as "dots." So "I need a three dot thin piece" for example.
posted by rusty at 1:59 PM on November 5, 2009


Great article, and rings very true for me.

The terms we used in childhood in my family are pretty much in line with the "official" names, which is amusing only because Lego never published those, or at least we certainly didn't have access to them in pre-Internet days. But there are some differences, and I'll still use most of these same names today when playing with kids:

2x4 brick
2x4 plate (or "2x4 flat")
Holey plate (for "Technic plate")
Dot (for a 1x1 round)
10 dot beam (for what Lego calls a "10L Liftarm")
2x2 slope


If we'd been a generation later, I'm sure there would be no end of Walken jokes possible about "putting your hands on my greasy yella slopes."
posted by rokusan at 2:37 PM on November 5, 2009


Notice that Peeron's names aren't always the same as the "official" names, but because Peeron built the database, those are the names more people are settling on. Lego doesn't trumpet the official names, because of their desire to be very non-language-specific.

For extra confusion, try figuring out all the different names for colors. There are about 9 different grays with 16 different names.
posted by rokusan at 2:40 PM on November 5, 2009


The lexicon as I learned it:
The "X-er" designation is strictly for rectangular/square modules of standard height.
"Flat X-er" for the same layout in flat plate.

A 1x4 stud/stub/pin/bump would be called a "straight 4-er", to clarify for the poster above.

"Glass X-er" for the translucent types frequently used as lamps or lights.

Wing, window, rudder, hinge, etc. for the appropriate type.

"Holey-X-er" for a block with horizontal holes.

Long straight bars or flat pieces 1x wide, with more bumps than can be readily counted at a glance (> 8), would be called bars or straighters, and flat bars/straighters.

Flat pieces wider than 2x would be called flatters or plates, usually referred to by the small dimension; e.g. a Four flatter. A square flatter would be called an X-flat-square.

In other words, the blocks are modular; so can the lexicon be.
posted by Xoebe at 2:51 PM on November 5, 2009


Nomenclature from my childhood:

1x2 brick hinge = "upper-downer"

Smooth tile = "smoothee"
posted by Fleebnork at 3:22 PM on November 5, 2009


Legos? So that's what you call those bumpy plastic brick-things!
Are you testing me, Satan?
posted by Flashman at 3:27 PM on November 5, 2009


I still remember the day my cousins and I sat down and organized ourselves into a naming system for bricks. For something that came from no external source it is remarkably similar to the "official" language.

We added a 3rd dimension, because if you needed a 2x4x2 it meant a 2x4 plate stacked - but you could construct that in a few different ways depending on what pieces were still available.

I 2nd the biological clock comment. I have a massive box of Legos that are NEVER leaving my ownership. Including a train, which I'm afraid the kid will have to wait until he's drinking age to play with.
posted by olya at 3:43 PM on November 5, 2009


My dad sold our massive pile of legos for $20 at a garage sale. I'm still annoyed. He even sold the boats and the train. How many kids had the Lego electric train? We still don't know ho sent that to us, it just arrived one day in the mail. I would totally let my kid play with my old Legos. Castle, spaceships, boats, train, all gone thanks to my dad's silly belief that we were too old to care. Now all I have is a small tub of Lego to pass on to my boy...
posted by caution live frogs at 6:32 PM on November 5, 2009


How many kids had the Lego electric train?

Gray track or blue track?

We had the blue track, in which the batteries were in a tender that the engine pulled, with a switch sticking out of the side that you could run into a reversing post to change direction.

I was incredibly jealous of the kid next door, who had the newer gray-track set, with a variable transformer and electrified track. WHOA REMOTE CONTROL!

I had four sets of points and two crossings, though. Nyah.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:54 PM on November 5, 2009


Thanks for posting this - it's both fascinating and adorable.
posted by harriet vane at 8:37 PM on November 5, 2009


I'm somewhere between Barney and Raimi in my own mental lexicon - practical, direct, and concise.

But I've always wanted to be a Max. That kid's got vision.
posted by Graygorey at 11:32 PM on November 5, 2009


This reminds me of why I didn't like to play legos with anyone else.
posted by Monday at 11:43 PM on November 5, 2009


My Lego-obsessed kids really love their box4blox sorting lego boxes--a stacking set of 4 sieves. A lot of the most particular special pieces are very small, and they get lost at the bottom of bins, but in the box4blox they all end up together in their own tray and it makes it easier to find them.

It's the middle of the night now; I'll have to show them that site and ask what their names for things are. They play Lego together harmoniously sometimes for hours, so they must have some way of talking about them with each other.
posted by not that girl at 2:45 AM on November 6, 2009


As an only child, this is totally awesome. My legos never had names because they didn't need them. They did have names in my mind - "Skinny two (2x1)" "wide two (2x2)" etc.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:13 AM on November 6, 2009


My deepest Lego shame is that I actually sold the electric Lego train (or rather, told my parents to sell it, I guess) as a kid. I still don't quite know why. Maybe because I never could make something out of that set that wasn't just an ugly train :(

Although most of my Lego is now gone, I still have the massive Lego Technic space shuttle fully constructed, sitting on a shelf. It's just so cool.
posted by Harry at 7:36 AM on November 6, 2009


OMG there was a lego electric train? And people just started asking me what I want for christmas, too!
posted by jacalata at 10:46 AM on November 6, 2009


Not only was there an electric train, there are whole clubs of people who meet up, assemble and run them around.
posted by GuyZero at 11:36 AM on November 6, 2009


now . . . how do I convince my girlfriend that it's okay for me to turn my desk into a lego space station? I'm going to have some explaining to do.
posted by Think_Long at 3:13 PM on November 6, 2009


I didn't really use verbal names for pieces when I was playing alone, but it was always a minor source of confusion or contention when playing with a friend, who would invariably have developed a slightly different terminology. (For example, is a "two" a piece with two bumps, or is it a four-bump 2x2 piece, with a 2x1 piece named "skinny two"? Does "flat" mean a 1/3 height block with bumps on top or with no bumps on top? How do you explain all this when you are 7? I wonder if this was the start of my occasional habit of treating each person I know as speaking a distinct language none of which are the same as mine.)
posted by hattifattener at 3:37 PM on November 8, 2009


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