Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll: The Secret World of Ruby Gems

&c=” border=”0″ alt=”” />

Advertise here via BSA


We’re in a time that’s more politically correct than we’ve ever been before. Sometimes for the greater good and sometimes as part of an epidemic of overreaction, we go to great lengths to keep our language bland and boring out of fear of inadvertently offending someone.

Then there are times — the hundreds of years of abuse that shaped our culture of political correctness — when we really do go too far. History doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the way that women, people from various ethnic groups, and others have been treated by whichever group was in the dominant position of the time.

There was the Sqoot drama a little over a week ago, when the company advertised beer-fetching women as one of the perks of their event. They copped a hiding (and rightly so) from the technology community, though as a small startup figuring it all out, it was unfortunate to see little forgiveness after they offered their apologies and promised to do better.

The Ruby community has kept its sense of humor. We’ve done some digging and found that there’s a whole lot of strangely named Ruby gems out there. Whether these are funny, offensive or neutrally unusual, we’ll leave up to you: don’t shoot the messenger.


Apparently, Ruby developers love their drugs. There are a range of gems with names inspired by various pharmaceuticals and narcotics:

  • Cocaine is a command line library.
  • Valium is for accessing attribute values without instantiating ActiveRecord objects.
  • Cannabis is a permissions gem.
  • Crack is a JSON and XML parsing library.

In a surprising instance of a strange name matching the purpose of the gem, Psychedelic is a syntax colorizer library for Ruby.


There are a surprising number of gems named after things with various levels of sexuality to them. At this point you just know someone, somewhere is going to get offended, so if you’re prone to writing angry comments, you might want to stop reading here.

  • Polyamory is a tool that can run test files regardless of the testing framework being used. As the documentation says, “Polyamory loves all of your testing frameworks.”
  • Girlfriend is an “installable, upgradeable and removable girlfriend” that runs in Ruby, and as such is one of the better examples of how a career in code can simultaneously destroy your sex life and your sanity.
  • Womanizer is a JavaScript and XML formatter.
  • Tranny is a hash transformer. The author has claimed that tranny was an innocent shortening of transformation.
  • Lolita is a Rails CMS, and also a term for a generally underage girl who is attractive and/or seductive.
  • Ball_gag validates user input using pluggable back-ends.
  • Trollop is a command line option parser.

Sometimes these are funny (particularly things like Polyamory, since it fits the bill) — but is disturbing to note the frequency with which rather degrading names for women are used.

Rock & Roll

We couldn’t give you sex and drugs and fail to provide the rock and roll. It seems your favorite Ruby developers felt the same way.

  • Rockstar is a scrobbler gem.
  • Sinatra is for creating web apps in Ruby with minimal effort.
  • Ratpack plays on the Sinatra theme, and is a set of view helpers for Sinatra.
  • Musical is a tool for turning songs from music DVDs into wav files in your iTunes library.
  • Harmony is for executing JavaScript and DOM code in Ruby.
  • Jazz provides support for running JavaScript specs written using frameworks such as Jasmine under env.js.
  • Piano is a Sinatra server for website sketching.

Many of these are clearly harmless. Many aren’t so much. Are there any gems in this list you’d avoid in favor of a potentially less useful solution just because of the name?

Fuel Your Coding

Leave a Comment