When I want to distinguish between two instruments by their accuracy, I'm inclined to say something like "rough tool" or "blunt instrument" to point out that something (e.g. an algorithm, or a programming language) is not good enough to produce an exact answer or a neat product, but can be used as a cheap and handy tool to make a prototype or to obtain some appropriate answer in an observed amount of time. But I'm not sure if that's correct. I can see on Idioms, that blunt instrument looks more like forensic terminology. I suppose that what I want to say is expressed differently in English.

How do you indicate in English the differences between tools, instruments, methods, etc. in terms of their accuracy, convenience, and limits of applicability? Is there idiomatic expressions for that, like rough tool? Is it correct to say something like "This programming language is a blunt tool to quickly produce a prototype" or "This is a fine tool, the use of which will take too long to get an answer"?

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    Metaphoric "blunt tool" virtually always implies disapproval, so This rapid application development (RAD) language is a blunt tool to quickly produce a prototype isn't a very natural utterance because it juxtaposes disapproval and approval without explicitly calling attention to the contrast with a suitable conjunction (This RAD system enables a prototype to be produced quickly, but it's a blunt tool which isn't flexible enough to write the actual application). Aug 17, 2023 at 12:14
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    There are colloquialisms for this. With that toolkit you can knock out a quick-and-dirty prototype in no time, but it offers few customization options. It's suitable for a proof-of-concept. Aug 17, 2023 at 20:54

1 Answer 1


A word that's often used is crude.

Inexpensive digital calipers are fairly crude measuring devices.

It means "imprecise", or "unsuitable for situations that require narrow tolerances".

This toolkit gives the developer fine-grained control over every aspect of the application.

The blunt/fine opposition won't always work, since fine if used by itself (It's a fine tool) can suggest simple approval on the part of the speaker, not that the thing is precise or detailed in any way, merely that the thing is adequate.

Inexpensive digital calipers are fine for many DIY projects.

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