gnarly = G = gnubie

GNU /gnoo/, not /noo/

1. [acronym: `GNU's Not Unix!', see recursive acronym] A Unix-workalike development effort of the Free Software Foundation headed by Richard Stallman <>. GNU EMACS and the GNU C compiler, two tools designed for this project, have become very popular in hackerdom and elsewhere. The GNU project was designed partly to proselytize for RMS's position that information is community property and all software source should be shared. One of its slogans is "Help stamp out software hoarding!" Though this remains controversial (because it implicitly denies any right of designers to own, assign, and sell the results of their labors), many hackers who disagree with RMS have nevertheless cooperated to produce large amounts of high-quality software for free redistribution under the Free Software Foundation's imprimatur. The GNU project has a web page at See EMACS, copyleft, General Public Virus, Linux. 2. Noted Unix hacker John Gilmore <>, founder of Usenet's anarchic alt.* hierarchy.

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

The Gnu is the oddest antelope in Africa. It has a tail like a horse, a pony's hindquarters and a goat's beard. Its head and shoulders look like a buffalo's and its muzzle is as flat as a moose's.

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Genus: Connochaetes

The gnu, also known as the wildebeest, is a striking animal native to Africa. It has a lifespan of up to 20 years, and is constantly on the move. Gnu are not the fastest of animals, and are therefore important prey for lions, hyenas, and other predators.

More than one type of freak - Gnu species

Standing 45-55 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 350 and 550 pounds, the brindled gnu (blue wildebeest - Connochaetes taurinus) is native to southern and eastern Africa.

Brindled gnu are known to travel in herds ranging from 20 to thousands of beasts. They are often to be found grazing with zebras, possibly due to their similar colouring - brindled gnu have bluish-grey fur streaked with brown.

Slightly smaller, but more common is the white-bearded gnu (Connochaetes taurinus albojubatus). This species is to be found as far North as Kenya, with 100000 in the Serengeti and about 1.5 million in the wild at the last major census in 1950.

There is one other species of gnu - the white-tailed gnu (black wildebeest - Connochaetes gnou), but it almost extinct in the wild, although its numbers are increasing in parks and reserves.

Good grass is hard to find - Eating habits

Gnu are purely herbivorous, preferring short grasses, but they will eat long grass during the dry season. They tend to drink twice a day. They are obviously connoisseurs of good herbal cuisine, as they annually travel up to 800 miles in search of fresh pasture. In these mass exoduses, up to 1 million beasts may be found, not to mention other animals, such as zebra and Thomson's gazelles that tag along. In addition to this, the gnu moves around throughout the year in search of that perfect cud.

'Hey baby, I'm horny' - Sexual reproduction

Gnu females are sexually mature after 2 and a half years. Males are mature after 3 or 4 years. Mature beasts may be distinguished by their peculiar horns, present on both sexes. Mature adult males are also noticeable for their deep grunts, sounding like croaking frogs. A cow's gestation period is 8 and a half months, producing one calf. The vast majority are born at the start of the rainy season, and are able to stand up a few minutes after birth. After a few weeks, they are able to keep up with the herd.

No fat blokes - Chauvinism turned upside-down

Gnu herds are led by older females, but protected by strong bulls. Any males that cannot find a mate are forced to form bachelor herds, which are chased off by leading bulls from a herd if they come too close.

1500 Fascinating Facts about The Universe, the World and its People

The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop a complete Unix-like operating system composed entirely of free software: the GNU system. GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix"; it is pronounced "guh-NEW."

GNU Purpose

The purpose of GNU is to continually develop and support a complete free software system that is upwardly compatible with Unix. This is done through a great deal of programming, a bit of legal manuevering, and a very active and attentive leader, Richard M. Stallman.

Why? The whole point of GNU is to make sure that useful software is always free in every way; no cost and with complete source. The GNU project provides all of the software one needs to build a very useful operating system; in fact, the operating system that E2 runs on is run on a large number of GNU components.

Beyond that, the project helps to support others with a similar purpose by breaking ground in legal manuevering. It has developed the concept of copyleft in a legal sense, as well as provided the General Public License under which software's freedom can be legally protected.

In addition, GNU contributes greatly to the cause of open software in a philosophical sense. The leader of the GNU project, Richard M. Stallman, is a widely known and very vocal advocate of the whole philosophy behind this, and such a driving force helps keep the project vibrant and successful.

GNU History

GNU was the brainchild of Richard M. Stallman, who submitted a now-legendary post to the net.unix-wizards newsgroup in September 1983 declaring that he was to begin writing an open, Unix-compatible operating system starting Thanksgiving 1983. At that point, Stallman was best known as the inventor of the emacs text editor.

Stallman initiated the project by calling for donations of machines, money, and people, which is essentially the demand of anyone interested in beginning a massive software project. The response to this request was strong, so in January 1984, Stallman left a lucrative job at MIT to focus on writing software for the GNU project full time. He started off by writing a functional kernel and incorporated into that a simple file system, then he began writing GNU emacs, perhaps the most well-known piece of software that the GNU project has yet produced.

Stallman started GNU emacs in September 1984 and had a nicely functional version complete in early 1985. Since the software was free, it began to be ported to every platform in existence, more or less. To prevent companies from stealing this, Stallman introduced the other major contribution of the GNU project, copyleft. Basically, it is the opposite of copyright; by its very nature it ensures that software written with copyleft protection can never become the property of a company. It uses the existing copyright law, but essentially inverts it.

The specific implementation of copyleft that the GNU project implemented was known as the GNU General Public License, or GPL. Introduced in 1985, it has been revised countless times and protects the freedom of a great deal of software. This license, or variations on it, protect Linux, the BSDs, Perl, and countless other pieces of software that are freely available.

The third major innovation that the GNU project contributed to the world of software first peeked out in 1986 as a collaboration between several members of the project, including Stallman. This was gcc, or the GNU C compiler. Built on top of an older, largely abandoned compiler, this software allowed people to write code in C and compile it using only free software. In essence, it meant that any operating system compatible with the GNU kernel now had the ability to compile high-level code for huge amounts of additional software to be added to the system.

It is highly likely that the underlying kernel behind the GNU project would have evolved into something like Linux is today if it wasn't for Linus Torvalds opening the can of worms first. In 1991, Linus wanted to write a Unix-like operating system to run on the PCs that everyone had, and that was the focus of Linux. Stallman focused on making the GNU kernel (in actuality the Hurd kernel, but we'll get to that) supported on as many systems as possible. With the focus on one specific architecture, Linux took off and left GNU in the dust. Today, Stallman still refers to Linux as GNU/Linux, due to the large number of GNU components still found in Linux (emacs and gcc come to mind immediately).

One shouldn't underestimate the impact of GNU, however. Hundreds of thousands of lines of code are freely available due to the project and have come to support countless operating systems and programs. GNU is largely responsible for much of the non-corporate code available today, either directly or indirectly. And that is no small feat.

What's GNU?*groan*

GNU's current focus, since all of the necessary components of a complete Unix system are now free, is in the development of the Hurd operating system. It has been in development since 1990; even though it is far from a final version, the version now available is quite usable. It was this kernel that the GNU project began developing around the same time that Linux got started.

Other focuses of the GNU project today include developing drivers for hardware that do not have publicly available specs, developing free versions of non-free programming libraries (such as the Microsoft Foundation Classes), fighting software patents on all fronts, and encouraging and supporting open documentation methods.


GNU has done a great deal towards increasing the openness and availability of software in the public domain. As a result, a great amount of software that would have never seen the light of day is now behind a great number of conveniences in our lives. For instance, E2 is written in Perl, which is protected by a GPL-like license, runs on a Linux server that utilizes a massive number of GNU components, and runs on a web server called Apache that was built using gcc and is protected under a GPL-like license. GNU has truly impacted our world.

A good source of additional reading is Stallman's GNU manifesto, which discusses much of the philosophy behind the GNU project.

On the topic why "GNU" is pronounced with hard G, we have from

So I looked for a recursive acronym for Something is not UNIX. And I tried all 26 letters, and discovered that none of them was a word. [Laughter] Hmm, try another way. I made a contraction. That way I could have a three-letter acronym, for Something's not UNIX. And I tried letters, and I came across the word "GNU" -- the word "GNU" is the funniest word in the English language. [Laughter] That was it. Of course, the reason it's funny is that according to the dictionary, it's pronounced "new". You see? And so that's why people use it for a lot of wordplay. Let me tell you, this is the name of an animal that lives in Africa. And the African pronunciation had a click sound in it. [Laughter] Maybe still does. And so, the European colonists, when they got there, they didn't bother learning to say this click sound. So they just left it out, and they wrote a "G" which meant "there's another sound that's supposed to be here which we are not pronouncing." [Laughter] So, tonight I'm leaving for South Africa, and I have begged them, I hope they're going to find somebody who can teach me to pronounce click sounds, [Laughter] so that I'll know how to pronounce GNU the correct way, when it's the animal.

But, when it's the name of our system, the correct pronunciation is "guh-NEW" -- pronounce the hard "G". If you talk about the "new" operating system, you'll get people very confused, because we've been working on it for 17 years now, so it is not new any more. [Laughter] But it still is, and always will be, GNU -- no matter how many people call it Linux by mistake. [Laughter]

Copyright © 2001, 2005, 2006 Richard M Stallman

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Gnu (?), n. [Hottentot gnu, or nju: cf. F. gnou.] Zool.

One of two species of large South African antelopes of the genus Catoblephas, having a mane and bushy tail, and curved horns in both sexes.

[Written also gnoo.]

⇒ The common gnu or wildebeest (Catoblephas gnu) is plain brown; the brindled gnu or blue wildebeest (C. gorgon) is larger, with transverse stripes of black on the neck and shoulders.


© Webster 1913.

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