This is NPU

I freely admit to getting frustrated by the amount of ‘NPU‘ (Nice Part Use) I see thrown around LEGO models. The acronym was originally used for a part being used cleverly in a different circumstance. Both these examples feature such a use. Nowadays it seems to be used for just about anything. This, dear readers, is wrong (to para-borrow a phrase from Twee Affect).

We need more flame units!

First we have Joshua Morris (I scream clone) who demonstrates a classic NPU by using a turkey on Mr Potato Head’s nose and croissants as his eyebrows.

some kind of Rally Car...

Secondly Robert H. (Robiwan_Kenobi) uses loads of parts in unusual ways but the most notable ‘NPU’ is the little airvent made from the end of a skiflipper.

Note how in each case a very specific part has been reused in a novel way. That is NPU.

24 comments on “This is NPU

  1. lower_torso

    At first I thought this might be an overly picky point (although very constuctively presented). However, I realized that this is directly related to a conversation I have almost daily with my son; “what’s this piece?” “It is whatever you want it to be.” Very few Lego parts have an explicitly intended purpose, and even fewer are used as “what they really are” (usually, a brick). Some do, such as the flipper and the turkey body pointed out here. Those are not easy to re-purpose.

    I agree with Gambort that there are different levels of clever. Using a piece in a previously undocumented manner is excited, but nearly so much as using one of the very specific Lego parts in an unusual manner. Whether one, the other, or both are called NPU, I know that I am most delighted to see the latter instance. Heck, who doesn’t cheer when someone finds a use for the rubberband holder, or the stretchy octupus legs, or the those weird little Kraata things? :)

  2. Scruffy Mynxbane

    So will we elect an executive branch now to enforce the proper use of the phrase, now that we have an edict from on high? The NPUPD perhaps?

  3. gambort Post author

    @teabox> Nice Part Use – I’ll edit the post

    @scruffy> I take it you’re someone who didn’t know what it meant.

  4. Scruffy Mynxbane

    Oh, i’m sorry, i didn’t realize that was your copyrighted phrase. i was under the impression that when someone thought something was a nice use of a piece, they were allowed to say so without checking with you first to make sure you approved and ratified their usage of said phrase. What other phrases do you own? Do you own “epic”? Because i’m not certain that has the same meaning for everyone either.

  5. Curtis

    I can’t recall ever using the phrase myself, I do however see it all the time. I’ve noticed many people seem to look for the most randomly re-purposed piece just so they can label it ‘NPU’. Most of these instances, I find the specific piece either tacky or unnecessary. For example, I disagree with that flipper piece being used well, I think it looks out of place. Simply because a piece is used in an odd or clever way (or gasp! a new way), doesn’t make it a nicely used part. Now the Turkey as a nose, I’d agree with that being well used piece:)

  6. Catsy

    Do you own “epic”? Because i’m not certain that has the same meaning for everyone either.

    No it doesn’t, and that’s part of the problem. The word “epic” has a discrete meaning. I’ve noticed over the last 15-20 years that it’s been slowly becoming the new “awesome” or “cool”–to the point where it communicates nothing of substance beyond “this is great”. Used idiomatically to refer to something that has an epic scope or feel, it’s appropriate. As a boilerplate compliment, it’s annoying.

    Languages aren’t a static thing–they’re tools for communication that depend on shared understanding, and that shared understanding can change over time. But that cuts both ways–because over time we’re diluting our descriptive language into an interchangeable collection of adjectives that lose their individual flavor and have no substance beyond “good” or “bad”.

    I think this sort of thing is what Tim was getting at with his post about NPU: it began as a way of complimenting innovative or novel parts usage, particularly the usage of “useless” or limited-use parts in creative ways. It has become overused to the point where it no longer carries much weight–it’s used as nothing more than a generic compliment, a way of saying “I like how this part works or looks here”.

  7. Scruffy Mynxbane

    i wholeheartedly agree with everything Catsy says. What i take umbrage to is the heavy handed and almost casually degrading way i see people attacking anyone they don’t agree with anymore. i’m not for linguistic purity over class and compassion.

  8. gambort Post author

    Curtis> There’s a difference between a matter of taste (like the flipper) and a part being used in a regular way yet getting a ‘NPU’ from someone who clearly doesn’t understand the acronym in its original and actually useful form.

    Catsy> Thanks for the excellent summary. I’m not stupid enough to think my post will make much difference to most people but I did write it as a constructive alternative to me snarking on more people who clearly haven’t got a clue what the acronym originally meant. Hopefully it helps.

    Scruffy> “take umbrage to is the heavy handed and almost casually degrading way i see people attacking anyone they don’t agree with anymore”

    Such as your responses here? You seriously wrote the above with a straight face? That’s like me complaining about people being pedantic.

  9. Scruffy Mynxbane

    Agreed, my satire was barbed. Guilty as charged. i just couldn’t believe that you “snarked on people” who were just paying a third party a compliment that didn’t involve you in any way and then had the gall to go and write such an obviously arrogant post about it. And you’re still doing it, i’m not trying to change your mind. You’re obviously content. i just wanted to point out the emperor is not only naked, but he’s not even the emperor.

  10. gambort Post author

    ^ Nah. I’m well aware of my self-importance, arrogance and bouts of obnoxiousness. That takes the edge off the irony. You’re busy shooting off comments that can so easily apply to yourself. Therein lies the irony.

  11. jaster

    hahaha, to try and figure out if someone on the internet is being “ironic” is the best

  12. MV

    language evolves, is derivative and variation in vernacular is normal. why try and police how people throw arbitrary terms around?

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