Swiss-Army chainsaw

In early Unix days, a well-known technical paper analogized the lexical analyzer generator lex(1) to a Swiss-army knife; this was a comment on the remarkable variety of more general uses discovered for a program originally designed as a special-purpose code generator for writing compilers. Two decades later, well-known hacker Henry Spencer described the Perl scripting language as a “Swiss-Army chainsaw”, intending to convey his evaluation of the language as exceedingly powerful but ugly and noisy and prone to belch noxious fumes. This had two results: (1) Perl fans adopted the epithet as a badge of pride, and (2) it entered more general usage to describe software that is highly versatile but distressingly inelegant.