This was the method by which Mr. Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) incapacitated his foes. This was actually thought up by Nimoy, who in one scene was supposed to sneak up behind a character and smack him in the head with a phaser. He objected that Vulcans would never be so crude, so as a substitute, he made up the legendary maneuver on the spot.

VR = V = vulture capitalist

Vulcan nerve pinch n.

[from the old "Star Trek" TV series via Commodore Amiga hackers] The keyboard combination that forces a soft-boot or jump to ROM monitor (on machines that support such a feature). On PC clones this is Ctrl-Alt-Del; on Suns, L1-A; on Macintoshes, it is <Cmd>-<Power switch> or <Cmd>-<Ctrl>-<Power>! On IRIX, <Left-Ctrl><Left-Shift><F12><Keypad-Slash>, which kills and restarts the X server, is sometimes called a vulcan nerve pinch. Also called three-finger salute and `Vulcan death grip'. At shops with a lot of Microsoft Windows machines, this is often called the `Microsoft Maneuver' because of the distressing frequency with which Microsoft's unreliable software requires it. Compare quadruple bucky.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Some relevant physiology

I haven't watched such a manoeuvre being performed (only the parody in Spaceballs), but it is conceivable that direct pressure on or near the carotid sinus could trigger a baroreceptor reflex (mediated by nerves connecting stretch receptors in said sinus, the brainstem, and the heart and blood vessels), resulting in a precipitous fall in blood pressure, and syncope (fainting). (In fact the procedure has some diagnostic and therapeutic use for patients in hospital, where it is known as carotid sinus massage.)

Bibliography

  • Sherwood, L. Human Physiology; West: Minneapolis, 2nd ed.; 1993, 334.

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