I discovered this insightful nugget over on Slashdot.
It was posted in response to a disillusioned “Ask Slashdot” submitter pondering whether such a thing as “Pretty Code” exists.
Cruftiness is the quality of having cruft. Cruft is the stuff that accumulates on code over time. Cruft has no odor, but it stinks. Cruft has no mass, but it weighs the code down. Cruft can’t be seen, but it’s ugly. Cruft cannot be young, it’s always old. Cruft can’t be deliberately added, it only appears when you’re not looking.
Cruft can’t be explained to managers, except through awkward car analogies. They still won’t get it because managers drive well-maintained elegant foreign cars like BMW’s, which gather no cruft. Programmers understand, because their Fords and Chevys are practically built of cruft. Harley motorcycles should have cruft, but noise dissipates cruft. Cruft is mysterious.
Cruft is never present on code which hasn’t had enough work. Cruft only appears on code which has been worked too long, by too many people.