An alligator clip is a device used to make quick and temporary electrical connections. Also known as a crocodile clip, this simple mechanical device gets its colorful and descriptive name from the pair of serrated clamping jaws that characterize it. Those jaws connect at a pivot, like a teeter-totter, and are spring-loaded for firm gripping. You open the jaws by squeezing the handles together, working against the spring. The spring closes the jaws again when you release the handles. In the normal closed state, the clip looks like a capital letter A.

The jaws are made of metal to conduct electricity well, but the handles are insulated to prevent electrical shock when working with higher voltage and current. One of the handles has a connector for attaching a wire. Electrical connections can be made quickly and easily by pinching the handles together and releasing them so that the jaws grip on a terminal or bare wire.

Alligator clips are often used for temporary battery connections, as is commonly done when using jumper cables to start a car by connecting an external battery. They are also used to connect lead wires for electrical testing equipment. Their sizes range from fine mini-clips that are worked with thumb and forefinger to rather big ones that require two hands to open.

People also find other miscellaneous uses for alligator clips. Smokers of marijuana regard them as the classic hippie roach clip, for holding the last tiny bit of a joint without getting your fingers burned. Connect two by a chain or elastic cord and you’ve got a nice set of easily adjusted clasps for holding things together or taking up slack. And with a little imagination, you can readily associate these little toothed biters with various ways of administering pain for business or pleasure. This is your friend, the alligator clip.

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