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What's the "bless your heart" of your field?
February 4, 2013 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I've noticed that a few professions seem to have a semi-common veiled insult specific to their field. These tend to be used in the same way that many southerners say "bless your heart" in lieu of calling someone stupid. For example, certain academics will say that a colleague is a gadfly (like Socrates...in an annoying way), and I've known nurses to say that another nurse "really should have been a doctor" when they think that colleague is full of it. What are some others?
posted by lemonadeheretic to Work & Money (201 answers total) 237 users marked this as a favorite
 
When a historian wants to insult another historian, they are called a sociologist.
posted by Melismata at 1:39 PM on February 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


In software development "Can't Repro" or "Can't Reproduce Bug" is the developer kindly telling you to fuck off.
posted by hellojed at 1:42 PM on February 4, 2013 [24 favorites]


In family court, when a lawyer wants to communicate to the judge that opposing counsel is being a jerk, he tells the judge that opposing counsel is negotiating "in bad faith."
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


If a program planner or grant writer says that someone is a "visionary," that means that they're all big dreams with absolutely no practical considerations. It's not a compliment.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:46 PM on February 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Thank you for your insights.
posted by misskaz at 1:48 PM on February 4, 2013 [35 favorites]


This isn't about professionals talking to each other, but rather to the client, so I'm not sure this is exactly what you're looking for, but--when someone births a less-than-attractive baby, L&D professionals will frequently say the baby is "just as cute as s/he can be."

Parents, my apologies.
posted by jesourie at 1:48 PM on February 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


"All hat and no horse" (or, no cattle) -- real ranchers about dudes.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:49 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


In my own field, one photographer calling another photographer's work "snapshots" might start a fight.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:50 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The more dismissive ones I hear in my field (leadership in a technology org) are:

"Let's take that offline" - You're wrong, but I don't want to argue with you in front of people.
"I'm all for admiring the problem, but can we discuss possible solutions?" - Stop whining and let's figure out how to fix it.
"I'm just not sure the value proposition is there .." - This is a dumb idea.
"Help me understand ... " - What the heck were you thinking?!
posted by dotgirl at 1:55 PM on February 4, 2013 [35 favorites]


When working with particularly difficult and generally useless teachers, other teachers will ask when they're planning on becoming principals.
posted by kinetic at 1:56 PM on February 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Music: Orchestra members are musicians, but singers seldom are.

Web: The graphic artist is not a designer oh god why are they mocking up the home page in InDesign at 600dpi with text on curves and...

Business: "please advise" is usually shorthand for "tell me which of you fuckwits is to blame for the latest cock-up".
posted by Wossname at 1:58 PM on February 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


from editors: "Noted."
posted by hmo at 1:58 PM on February 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


In my field (clergy), parishioners often insult their pastor by saying (s)he "should have been a professor," which is code for "boring sermons and does not visit the shut-ins."
posted by 4ster at 1:59 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Noted."
oops, just read hmo's. Actually useful in many situations.
posted by LonnieK at 2:00 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


In screenwriting:
"It's a good first draft" = it's shit, but we'll let you attempt to fix it (for free, obviously)
"It's an improvable draft" = it's shit, and we're going to have to fire you and hire someone else
"It's not what we were expecting" = it's total shit, we're throwing it away, and we will never hire you again
Silence = your career is over
posted by unSane at 2:02 PM on February 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Also--the catchword "inappropriate" is used a lot among nurses to describe bad behavior. It may sound like a fairly mild thing to say, but it is meant to describe behavior that is truly beyond the pale.

Some examples from my or my colleagues' experience: a doctor who tells a woman that the smell of her bacterial vaginosis is nauseating is inappropriate. A husband who physically shoves a nurse toward the door because she spoke out loud in the labor room, when total silence on the part of medical providers at all times was requested in the birth plan, is inappropriate. Having a birth plan that demands that your caregivers not speak is inappropriate. A husband who asks his wife's nurse out on a date while his wife is in labor is inappropriate. A woman who requests clitoral stimulation by the nurse as a pain management technique during labor is inappropriate.
posted by jesourie at 2:02 PM on February 4, 2013 [45 favorites]


"Social media marketing is good for building relationships whose impacts can not be measured or quantified"
posted by KokuRyu at 2:03 PM on February 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


In family court, when a lawyer wants to communicate to the judge that opposing counsel is being a jerk, he tells the judge that opposing counsel is negotiating "in bad faith."

As a lawyer, I can tell you that is not restricted to family court, and it is not actually particularly veiled as insults go. There is a certain level of decorum you are expected to maintain when speaking before a judge so you can't literally call each other mean names, but saying someone is operating "in bad faith" is calling them out quite explicitly and may even have legal implications in terms of sanctions, dismissal of claims, etc. if the judge agrees.

More veiled insults / euphemisms from the law include, in discussions between opposing counsel, "we'll take that proposal under advisement" (which means "fuck no, and you are insulting me by asking") and "I'll take that proposal back to my team" (which means "I am inclined to say hell no, but there is a 1% chance I will change my mind after further consideration").
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:05 PM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


In family court, when a lawyer wants to communicate to the judge that opposing counsel is being a jerk, he tells the judge that opposing counsel is negotiating "in bad faith."

I'm not sure that counts. That isn't a veiled insult. It's a term of art with a very important legal meaning. Litigating in bad faith, regardless of whether it's family law, or just civil litigation generally, is a violation of applicable rules of procedure and can be grounds for sanctioning the other side. Indeed, if a judge thinks you're trying to slip in veiled insults, he'll likely just get mad at you for breaching the civility of his forum. Judges hate it when lawyers do that.

I think a better example would be a corporate lawyer denigrating tort litigation attorneys by calling their subject matter "red car/blue car," referring to the notion that most tort litigation involves who did what to whom, while corporate practice tends to be a lot more complex. I've also heard the term "retail law" applied to those practitioners who focus on serving individual clients directly rather than doing more commercial work, as the former involves a kind of advertising which many of the more prestigious firms consider beneath them, e.g., phone books, billboards, TV, etc.

But generally, lawyers use the same sorts of insults for each other that most other people use for us. The term "ambulance chaser" comes up pretty frequently. Civil defense attorneys generally are sometimes called "the Dark Side," and one of the larger firms is known as "The Evil Empire" and another as "The Death Star," as they're incredibly aggressive litigation firms that tend to represent somewhat unsavory clients--big tobacco, big oil, big pharma, etc.--and reputed to be somewhat cuthroat places to work.
posted by valkyryn at 2:05 PM on February 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


This isn't necessarily calling people stupid, but I think it gets at the spirit of what you're asking. People who study the great apes, especially chimps and bonobos, have a tendency (to my monkey-studying eyes) to inflate everything they find to REALLY EXCITING PROPORTIONS even if it is not particularly exciting. And because granting agencies and the general public love things about the great apes, you can get just ridiculous things published in a chimp or bonobo venue. I once went to a 15-minute presentation about chimpanzees digging holes and the shape of the pile of dirt.

So anyways, if I (or other monkey studiers) think someone is just in primatology for the glory of it all, I'd say "Ah, I bet you're a chimp person." If they're self-aggrandizing, but also hippies, I'd suspect they were actually bonobo people. And if they're self-aggrandizing paleontologists, they'd probably say they're out looking for hominid fossils (even if all they ever find is fossil baboons or hyraxes or early elephants or something).
posted by ChuraChura at 2:06 PM on February 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Software user support, in regard to certain clients:

"He tries."
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:06 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I work in a small prop trading firm.

Insults I hear more here than elsewhere: "they're a bunch of strokes" "he's a fucking fuck"
posted by phunniemee at 2:06 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In software / systems:

That's... Actually kind of a hard problem. - You are radically underestimating what you are asking of me, and I wish you would fuck off. (Alternatively: You are radically underestimating what you are trying to accomplish, and I wish you would fuck off before you drag me in.)

That's a training issue. - It's the users' fault.

User error - It's the users' fault, and they are malicious idiots.

Nontrivial - See "hard problem" above.

He's not very technical. - He's an idiot.

Well, it follows the spec. - Whoever wrote the spec is not very technical.

That's (cute|clever). - I suspect that what you're doing is going to fuck me over.

Bob was clever like that. - Bob's work is known to fuck people over.

It's a little too magical. - Stop being so fucking clever.
posted by brennen at 2:08 PM on February 4, 2013 [40 favorites]


Web designer: "Do you do a lot of print work?"
posted by Magnakai at 2:08 PM on February 4, 2013 [24 favorites]


"Ideas guy."
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Seeking a technical co-founder"
posted by brennen at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


For photography: "you have a good eye" means that you have no skill.

Sorta related: in food service and some others, attractive women co-workers are referred to in the third person as "talent," viz. "a lot of talent on the floor tonight."

Business: "have you had a chance to look at this" often covers up annoyance at unanswered emails.

"He knows the material backwards and forwards" covers up the fact that this person cannot communicate this knowledge worth a damn.

"With all appropriate respect" is a gem of way to end a professional nastygram.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:11 PM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


An academic publisher rejecting a very non lit-crit manuscript written by someone close to me said that it was "very well-written".
posted by thelonius at 2:11 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


In the entertainment business, useless stagehands are sent to the truck to look for "a long weight (wait)."
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:11 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lawyer here. "I'll take it under advisement" is kind of a smart-alecky one that you can only say to someone you have a good relationship with -- that's what judges say when they are being noncommittal and you may never know whether they actually cared what you said. Also, when someone is "being optimistic," it is not a good thing.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:11 PM on February 4, 2013


In power project development and acquisition, a developer "not fully capturing the site's uncertainties" basically means the developer's site has no usable resource, is far from power transmission, has no hope of a contract, is in an area full of expensive lakeshore vacation cottages, is the last known nesting site of the Iconically Rare Bird, and is also likely on top of an ancient burial ground.
posted by scruss at 2:14 PM on February 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


phunniemee: "I work in a small prop trading firm.

Insults I hear more here than elsewhere: "they're a bunch of strokes" "he's a fucking fuck"
"

Having traded on the floor and in upstairs prop shops, I was straining to come up with a veiled way people call each other names. Usually it is just the direct, "You're a fucking moron." I have heard, "You might want to hedge that," when someone thinks you are in a particularly bad trade.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:16 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In formal settings like courts or congress, referring to someone as "my esteemed colleague," "the distinguished gentleman from South Carolina," is an acceptable way to say that someone is a despicable, ignorant jerk.

Calling women "ladies" is often done with intent to dismiss and demean.

"With all due respect" means no respect at all is due or forthcoming.
posted by Corvid at 2:18 PM on February 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Music: Orchestra members are musicians, but singers seldom are.

And it pisses us OFF, too. So unless you mean to insult, don't do that.

Amongst classical musicians, you'll hear stuff like "Do you have a crescendo marked there?" which means "There is a crescendo marked there and I would like you to fucking do it, please." Also (for instrumentalists) "Do you need to take a minute to tune?" which means "You are playing flat." For the true "bless your heart" moment, you might hear "Well, he certainly plays accurately," which is the equivalent of saying "A decent MIDI keyboard could have rendered that with more musicianship."
posted by KathrynT at 2:18 PM on February 4, 2013 [22 favorites]


When students are acting like complete idiots, we can call their behavior, "inappropriate" and the most demeaning thing we dare call the student(s) acting in that manner is "knucklehead" which is code for "a complete waste of our time and likely to be a repeat offender."
posted by Lynsey at 2:21 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In academia, depending on the flavor or the view point, "a reductionist."
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:21 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


When a historian wants to insult another historian, they are called a sociologist.
posted by Melismata


Whereas I'm pretty sure that when a sociologist wants to insult another sociologist, they call them a historian. Or they would, if they respected historians that much.

/historian, having dinner with a sociologist this evening. we will discuss pizza
posted by jb at 2:23 PM on February 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Business: "have you had a chance to look at this" often covers up annoyance at unanswered emails.

On the flip side: "Sure, I'll get onto that whenever I have a spare minute" = whatever you are asking me to do is a complete waste of my time, and every conceivable thing I have planned to do is more important, even if it's just picking the lint out of my belly button.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Among my fellow translators, saying that a translator is "literal" would generally be a put-down (I know one translator who wears that label proudly, which kind of makes sense when you know him).

Not professional, but Burning Man types use the phrase "sparkle pony" to describe someone who shows up with 5 trunk-loads of costumes and no water. "Radical self-reliance" is a basic principal for Burners, so this kind of behavior doesn't fly.
posted by adamrice at 2:26 PM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


"We needed fresh eyes on this" = you weren't going to give us the answer we wanted on this, so we gave it to someone else to review.
posted by ldthomps at 2:28 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


For contracts/program manger types who like to try their hand at technical solutions - "He's... not an engineer."

For actual engineers who have either crossed over to the dark side or just really don't know what they're doing - "He's... not really an engineer."

Bad pilots are usually just called "dead", so...
posted by backseatpilot at 2:30 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


In UK politics, its pretty common to refer to a decision which is particularly foolish or would cause particularly bad political consequences to be referred to as "brave" - its a line from the classic sitcom Yes Minister.
posted by prentiz at 2:31 PM on February 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Military: "I bet that guy's going to get a medal someday." (means they're going to get killed doing something stupid and the medal will be awarded posthumously)

Activist: "I think they've got the makings of a great politician."
posted by corb at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I work in fundraising, and sometimes when a newbie fundraiser doesn't understand the work that goes into cultivating a gift, they're derisively called a "farmer," and their work referred to as "watering."
posted by juniperesque at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whereas I'm pretty sure that when a sociologist wants to insult another sociologist, they call them a historian. Or they would, if they respected historians that much.

I was just going to say that I once had lunch seated next to a great sociologist writer about history, and his joke was "Sociologists are kind of like historians, only we actually use data."
posted by Miko at 2:33 PM on February 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


The IT department where I work calls people who just can't use a computer a 'super user'.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:33 PM on February 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


On reflection, being known as a "career flight instructor" was pretty derogatory, since it implied you didn't have the chops to make it through airline training (or worse, you washed out from an airline's training program which makes you essentially unhireable as an airline pilot afterwards).
posted by backseatpilot at 2:34 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


when a newbie fundraiser doesn't understand the work that goes into cultivating a gift, they're derisively called a "farmer,"

This one's historical, but it was really common for sailors in the age of sail to insult other sailors' skills by calling them "farmers" or "soldiers." Farmers were imagined to be dumb and clumsy and hamfisted (where sailors valued being fast and deft and having good fine motor skills), while soldiers were imagined to be lazy. It was even an verb: "quit soldiering and get to work."
posted by Miko at 2:36 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


(I'm obviously doing really well with this today). And the reason why "career flight instructor" is derogatory is because most non-military pilots start their careers as flight instructors to build up enough logged time to transition over to the airlines. Making a career of it is, with rare exceptions, not heard of.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:36 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sir Humphrey Appelby is a master at this art. Some of his choice phrases:

Brave, courageous - Foolish, political suicide.
Dear lady - Extremely patronizing term for a woman.
Thank you, Bernard - Shut up, Bernard, we've had enough of your pedantic corrections.
posted by Idle Curiosity at 2:40 PM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I was a staffer in politics 'views' was a well-known euphemism for 'political opinions which are uninformed, stupid and maybe bigoted'.

'She's got views on public sector staffing levels'. 'He's got a view on the taxation system'. 'This letter has some interesting Views About Jews'.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:45 PM on February 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


Any customer service position I have ever had:

"Is there anything else I can help you with?" And variations thereof= "eat shit and die you obnoxious idiotic satan spawn, I hate you and I hope you go away and never, ever come back"

"I'm sorry, I don't understand the question" and variations thereof= "you are speaking nonsense OR that's a stupid stupid question".

"Oh? Ah. Mm. Ok." Etc= for the love of god stop talking at me.

That's all I can think of now but there are more.
posted by windykites at 2:48 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Snowflake" at my software company, for customers who are being unreasonable. (Are my coworkers all secretly mefites?)
posted by third word on a random page at 2:49 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a software tester, saying that someone's code 'works on their machine' means it is crappy bug-filled software that probably has hardcoded strings for the username. Alternatively, saying that a dev closed a bug because it 'works on their machine' is saying that they are lazy idiots who couldn't be bothered to read the repro steps or didn't understand them.
posted by jacalata at 2:50 PM on February 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Children who run wild through the library are called "spirited" and we all know what is meant by that.
posted by jessamyn at 2:51 PM on February 4, 2013 [49 favorites]


Designers: "That probably won an award." Looks flashy, sounds great, and is an utter failure in practice.
posted by xil at 2:51 PM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Among librarians, "X doesn't like change" = "X is a stick-in-the-mud technophobe old person who makes work difficult for everyone and is probably in a position of authority, to our great frustration."

"X is... reeeeeally a cataloger" = "X is extremely introverted and very socially awkward."
posted by clavicle at 2:56 PM on February 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Art and design: "It's a good start" = Your idea sucks. Try again.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:00 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's (cute|clever). - I suspect that what you're doing is going to fuck me over.

Bob was clever like that. - Bob's work is known to fuck people over.

It's a little too magical. - Stop being so fucking clever.

for sure seconding 'clever' in software dev. see extension method in dotnet dev.

also 'wow, quick turnaround' to mean 'wtf am i gonna find in this pile of crap'.
posted by j_curiouser at 3:02 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


seanmpuckett: "All hat and no horse" (or, no cattle) -- real ranchers about dudes.

And we farmers call a guy who farms but isn't serious enough about it a cowboy.
posted by bluebelle at 3:02 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your PR consultant tells you "That's an interesting strategy/idea. We can try." what they're saying is "We're too polite to tell you just how awful your idea is."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:09 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Attorneys responsible for doing the legal writing (as opposed to actually trying cases to juries) sometimes refer to the trial attorneys as "not law lawyers" or "showponies." (Conversely, it is a compliment to call someone a "law lawyer.")

When someone makes an opinion-based, citation-free argument on appeal, because an appeal should be based entirely on an existing record and the law, that kind of argument is derided as "jury argument," which is a faux-nice way of saying it's bunk.
posted by *s at 3:13 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


PICNIC: Problem In Chair, Not In Computer
posted by humboldt32 at 3:30 PM on February 4, 2013 [28 favorites]


There are a ton of these in the military, most very precise to a particular job. But one that will shut down an idiot almost immediately is, "Well, that's a method." There are various flavors depending on which word you emphasize, but they all boil down to "Your idea is bad, and you should feel bad."
posted by Etrigan at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Architects will generally call people in related fields that do design work but don't have the technical chops to verify that it works, is feasible, or meets code "designers". General contractors will do the same thing, even using that term for architects who have designed silly things (most architects are guilty of this at some point).

I'm sure many engineers in the construction field could use "architect" with the same meaning.
posted by LionIndex at 3:33 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Academia, "interesting."
posted by matkline at 3:35 PM on February 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh, also, in poker: in games like hold 'em and stud, where there are board cards and multiple rounds of betting, if someone is betting a lot against you and you check and call all the way and end up winning it, when they say "nice hand" it actually means you had a shitty hand that you didn't play very well and just got REALLY lucky. This is a somewhat self-interested euphemism, because if poor players take it at face value, they tend to get confident and stick around longer, giving their poor fundamental play more chances to betray them.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:36 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you, dotgirl, for the phrase "admiring the problem". I'm adopting that one.
posted by Kakkerlak at 3:38 PM on February 4, 2013


A "cowboy coder" works too fast to bother with comments, tests, exception handling, or version control.
posted by djb at 3:41 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


In Academia, "interesting."

In Minnesota, too!
posted by Elly Vortex at 3:45 PM on February 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


In law:

"OTHER LAWYER has fundamentally misconstrued the effect of the legislation..." = Other lawyer is a blithering moron.

"Your Honour, my instructions are that..." = Judge, my client is a stupid, ignorant tool who is ignoring my advice - please don't think I'm an idiot, 'cos he's forcing me to do this.

"There is an argument that..." = Ye gods, I'm really reaching on this one.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:45 PM on February 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


In screenwriting, when responding to a producer's notes:

"I'll definitely look at that" - that is a terrible idea and I won't be doing it

"That's a bit diffuse" - I have not the faintest idea what you are talking about

"That may have some knock-ons" - I'd have to rewrite the whole script, and I'm not going to
posted by unSane at 3:45 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, these responses are great (and very funny)! Thanks, everyone, and please keep them coming!
posted by lemonadeheretic at 3:47 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In medical notes:

"Mr. X is a challenging historian"= Mr. X cannot answer a simple question/may be demented.

"Ms. Y, a charming woman who is very involved in her health care, was referred for..."= Ms. Y is a hypochondriac.

"Thank you so much for this interesting consult".
posted by maryrussell at 3:49 PM on February 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Kitchens: "Well, the flavors are there..."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:49 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"X doesn't like change"

This is the case in business, too. I have also heard 'tenured' as code for 'has worked here since before the flood and will stab you if you try to make them do things a new way'.

'Enthusiastic' means someone (usually very young) who will want to change things just for the sake of change.
posted by winna at 3:56 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nobody's done the art world yet! This kind of snark is really raised to an art (pun intended) within the art-world discourse.

[sidenote, these apply only to conceptual art, not contemporary commercial art (aka "pretty paintings," I guess I gave you one there)]

"really well researched" = Ugly, shows no care for aesthetic quality or skill of craft; sometimes also, pedantic and over-explained.

"attractive" or "nice use of colour/form" = "I literally could not think of a single positive thing to say about this, but I'm trying to be polite" and/or "Pretty painting, I'm sure it'll sell for a lot of money"

"The work lacks criticality" = I think this person is an absolute idiot and I don't care enough to sugarcoat it.

"They're really interested in crafting culture / their work references contemporary crafting" = twee Etsy mess. This is not necessarily a bad thing! It depends on whether the work has any criticality.
posted by 100kb at 3:58 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not in the military, and I don't even play one on TV (er....), but Donald Rumsfeld was known to say that he "had a minimum of high regard" (here's another example) for certain ideas.

This isn't / wasn't a veiled insult.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 3:59 PM on February 4, 2013


Retail:
"Could you partner with [name] to get the clothes out?"-- Stop being such a lazy fuck and get moving

"The gentleman here has a question about our buy one, get one sale"-- He's an idiot who didn't read the flyer and has to have things explained to him by a manager.

"I'm sorry, the backroom didn't have [item]"-- I told you we were out of stock, you didn't believe me, so I just went back to the dock, looked around and came out. I TOLD YOU! THERE'S EVEN A STICKER AND A BUNCH OF RAIN CHECKS.

"Oh, could you [retail drone] help them with finding the [item]"--I don't know that department, but I don't want to say it, it was their fault for asking me about KITCHEN WARE when I was folding menswear.

*pulls out radio* "DEPARTMENT, please, DEPARTMENT, please" *walks away* -- I was going off the clock and you had to tell me your life story? Puh-lease. Here, a token attempt.

There is a lot more.
posted by lineofsight at 4:00 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Among physicists, "in principle" often means "not":
"Yes, that might in principle be possible to do" -> It will never work in a million years.

Also:
"Well, there certainly seems to be some interesting physics involved!" -> I don't understand and I don't care, please let me go.
posted by springload at 4:02 PM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


As a theoretical physicist, occasionally somebody calls me a mathematician. It's almost always an insult (particularly if coming from an experimentalist); but of course if it were to come from a mathematician, that'd be a different story. (No mathematician would ever mistake me for one, I'm pretty sure).
posted by nat at 4:07 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In TV and film production:

A "must-hire" or a "mustie" is a well-connected person who must be hired in an entry level position for political reasons. Plenty of these people are worth their salt, and the insult is very quickly forgotten. But others will remind you over and over that they are nothing but a mustie and will never be anything but a mustie.

Similarly, people who've only recently been promoted are referred to as "green". This isn't necessarily a negative thing, but when the recently promoted person inevitably gets in over their head and fucks something up, you'll often hear things like "omg the production secretary is so green."

If a job listing for an assistant-type position mentions that the job requires someone with "a thick skin", that means the boss in question is extremely difficult and will yell at you a lot.

I've used the expression "he'll probably apply to law school soon" to refer to someone who clearly isn't cut out for production work. I'm not sure how widely used that is, though I'm pretty sure my meaning came across.

In a screenwriting context, I was just today told I have "a great voice", and I can't figure out whether that was a genuine compliment or whether it's boilerplate along the lines of "you have a good eye" and "great use of color" in the visual arts world.
posted by Sara C. at 4:15 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


After a classical voice recital, beware of complimenting the singer's outfit or appearance unless you first give specific musical feedback. So, in this context, saying she is "pretty" or "beautiful" or he "looks handsome" would fit the bill.
posted by amtho at 4:16 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is really not industry related, but more shop specific, but the IT company I work at, when a customer is clearly clueless (especially if he or she is also demanding) we refer to them as a "craftsman" (which of course means they, like the brand name suggests, are a tool).
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:17 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


In IT, an 1D10T error is just what it looks like.

In validation of pharma/biotech/medical device, the document is "technically accurate" means that the practical (useability) of the document is crap and you need to go back to the drawing board. It's not going to fly with auditors.
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:23 PM on February 4, 2013


Writing fiction and/or the book world:

Pretty much any time someone gives their opinion of your book in five words or less, or praises more technical aspects like "I love how you chose a unique POV" or "It was such a clean read" it means your book sucks (to them). Book people gush like drunk fangirls when they really love a book.

Also, "Do you have a critique group?" = you really need some honest, critical feedback on this mess.
"That sounds awesome. You should write it." = Ideas are a dime a dozen and no, I won't write a book based on your half-assed idea in exchange for 5% of your profits.
posted by weeyin at 4:24 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


You'll love this chardonnay. It's super buttery.
posted by Kloryne at 4:28 PM on February 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, saying something is "well written" or that someone is a "good/fine writer" is often an insult in academia.

Other "subtle" put-downs: "Thanks for your article; I look forward to reading it." "So, your book came out." Both imply you're going to read the thing right after the hockey match in hell.
posted by BibiRose at 4:36 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Wisconsin: "Different" means "really, really not my cup of tea."
Ex) "Well, that conceptual art show was kinda different." (Also, "different" is pronounced "diff-ernt.")
posted by enzymatic at 4:37 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, I had a creative writing teacher whose comment on a student's story was sometimes, "It's very clean," meaning the story's main virtue was that it didn't have typos or spelling mistakes.
posted by enzymatic at 4:39 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


IT - PEBKAC (Problem exists between keyboard and chair.)
posted by stenseng at 4:46 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Decoding 'great voice' in screenwriting: it generally means we like the way you express yourself line by line and maybe also in dialog BUT your structure/plot may be sloppy and your dialogue possibly all sounds kinda samey. Also may mean 'too idiosyncratic to do rewrite work'.
posted by unSane at 4:48 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I once heard a great line from a VP of Sales, when referring to a customer with silly requirements: "Looks like they're throwing a party no one can attend, maybe we should tell 'em not to make so many cupcakes."
posted by ifandonlyif at 5:02 PM on February 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Technical head-space error - Your colleagues know you done fucked up.
We will take some time to discuss lessons learned - Your boss knows you done fucked up.
...I blame myself for not being on top of this. - Your boss's boss knows you done fucked up.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:03 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I work exclusively online and encounter a lot of people in different fields. Sometimes, there is that user who cannot accept any answer no matter how perfect it might be. It can get testy at times and sometimes the person just does not understand they are being difficult or whatever. In the situation where I cannot please a person (and probably who I will not work with anymore because I am being a wiseass), I just let them babble on for paragraphs about whatever they want then I reply with ..............

"u rite" combined with any (or all) of the following…..
1) k thx bye
2) got go
3) buh bye
4) cya l8er

then I look for a new client.
posted by lampshade at 5:05 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In music recording;
"Interesting"
"I like what you’re trying to do"
"Something like that might work"

These are not necessarily insults, and can mean exactly what they say, and/or be diplomatic ways to say you don’t love something.

"Shredder" = Tends to overplay and is only interested in their part, not the whole work. A shredder will not get the insult though and take it as a compliment.

"Had a theory" = Instead of creating something from the heart the person approached it theoretically. This is not the same as an interesting idea. You would abandon the idea if it didn’t work, sticking with it when it’s obviously not working is when it becomes theory. "This should work".
posted by bongo_x at 5:11 PM on February 4, 2013


Some of my train driver mates will sometimes say "He'd make a great depot driver". Depot drivers shunt trains around in sidings and yards, usually at speeds not greater than 5 mph.
posted by Decani at 5:17 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


With credit to Scott Adams, in any field you should be worried if people start calling you an "In-DUH-vidual."
posted by 4ster at 5:19 PM on February 4, 2013


Unique, as in; That's a unique idea, style, procedure... Which translates to stupid.
He/she works hard... Meaning dull, unoriginal, incompetent.
posted by X4ster at 5:21 PM on February 4, 2013


In Chinese diplomacy, if they call something "not convenient", they are saying that there's not a chance they will permit it.
posted by beagle at 5:42 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the House and Senate, frequent backstabbing comments incorporate a variation of: "my good friend, the gentleman/lady from [insert name of state]."
posted by beagle at 5:46 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stenseng had one of my favorites above, but IT is full of them.

Eye dee ten tee error - Spell it out.
OE/UE - Operator Error/User Error
Turn it off and turn it on again - Give me ten minutes to think about this while I fill my coffee.

And I have seen on a job ticket that fell into my lap. The Client is incapable of understanding this piece of software. In bold.
posted by Sphinx at 5:57 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, nothing like the elitism in the physics department at university:

Professors insulted students by calling them electrical engineers, implying they only there for the grade, and do not care about the beauty of science (poor EE students had to study physics with us, to the dismay of everyone involved).

Calling someone experimentalist physicist implies he doesn't have what it takes to make it as a theoretician.

Calling someone a chemist was also a total insult, as he's too stupid to understand physics, he's just playing with tubes.
posted by ye#ara at 6:04 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In engineering, delicately praising someone's creativity can damn them as as a pie-in-the-sky dreamer who's ineffective at implementation; the blunt phrasing is the earlier-mentioned "idea guy."

In science, delicately praising someone's ability to work with data or interpret experimental results is close to suggesting that they fudge or misrepresent the numbers.

Either of these would sink a hire if brought up during a reference check to a perceptive manager, for example.
posted by Mapes at 6:05 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I work in a weird intersection of IT and politics, and I'll add "being uncooperative". It roughly means any of: "I expected it to be cheaper / that isn't what I already decided / I'm not talking to you ever again, enjoy the new layer of middle management"

As in "I've produced a requirements document on what you requested. Here are quotes from $vendors on what it will cost to implement."

"You're being uncooperative."

Or, "We should do $X"

"The law section $foo states $Y"

"You're being uncooperative."
posted by mrgoat at 6:13 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also for lawyers:

"He's not really a litigator" = "The last time he was inside a courtroom was when he got sworn in."

"[Opposing party] seems to be saying. . ." = "I can't make heads or tails of that crap argument."
posted by valkyryn at 6:22 PM on February 4, 2013


"Thank you for sharing" = You're an asshole...shut the fuck up.

The current one that I am hearing from one of my professors "Your writing is succinct". I know that is not a compliment.
posted by cairnoflore at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Careers" are how federal executive branch political appointees refer to civil servants.

While driving with a fellow appointee near the agency: "Careful! Don't hit those careers!"

Appointees are "the C's/a C" (Schedule C positions, GS-15 and below) or "the PAs/a PA" (actually a PAS, presidential appointee confirmed by the Senate). Somehow, the inbetween group -- the non-career Senior Executive Service appointees -- escaped a quick moniker.

Of course, those are the nice names those careers give us!

(I enjoyed great career - non-career relationships!)
posted by jgirl at 6:46 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"How Nice" means to me "Fuck you very much."

When queried on the status of a request/requirement the response "Thank you for asking, it's the next item on my list," translation "It will never fucking happen."
posted by KneeDeep at 6:51 PM on February 4, 2013


When one of my colleagues dubbed himself an "ideas guy" I blanched because in the scientific world, below a certain tier, it means that you're a fucking useless bloviator, wasting people's time with poorly grounded speculations.
It was, in that case, a perfectly accurate self assessment
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:55 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Seconding what clavicle said about "cataloger" being an insult in the library world. Not that cataloging itself isn't a vital part of how libraries run, but if you are describing someone as having the personality of a cataloger, you're saying that they're a stick in the mud who values procedure over innovation. You can also make the same slam by saying someone is very precise or detail-oriented.
posted by MsMolly at 6:58 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Machinists love to call people who are lousy at it...millwrights. As in, that millwright over there just his his lathe with a Crescent wrench to fix it. It's also an insult to call someone a welder. These are other trades that dip their toes in machining, knowing full well that they will never do it again and don't give a crap.
posted by Deodand at 7:18 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I think we need to do x, but it can just wait until morning rounds." As a night shift nurse, I do not believe that you as a physician are capable of making this decision so should leave it to the attending. They agree most of the time.

"The patient is concerned about...." Concern is used generally to indicate that the patient is *overly* concerned.

"Let's focus on you getting some rest!" Stop. Bothering. Me.
posted by nursegracer at 7:33 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I work in policy, and one insult you'll hear is "passionate." "They're a very passionate group." "We have heard a lot of passionate testimony today." It generally means someone is unprofessional or ill-informed. Maybe their goals will never be satisfied in the real world, their tactics might get a bit crazy, or they understand their goal but can't follow the policy details.

Another way to politely dismiss someone is to cast them as an outsider, like "Mary, meet Joe. He is here to visit us from California."
posted by slidell at 7:39 PM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, saying something is "well written" or that someone is a "good/fine writer" is often an insult in academia.

Wat?
Actually, not so. It's surprising how many academics are very poor writers, so when a good writer, who also knows their subject, comes along, it's noteworthy. I'm sure we all know a few academics who are poor writers and possibly imagine that it is just a bi-product of the genius mind, like Einstein not learning how to speak until he was seven, and just part of their special snowflakey persona.
posted by waving at 7:39 PM on February 4, 2013


Mr. Piper here. Amongst industrial electricians you might hear someone referred to as a "lighting guy". You'd let them put up fixtures, but not wire motors. Don't even think of letting them near the 480 volt panel.
posted by pennypiper at 7:42 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


+1 Lighting guy.

Sloppy electrical work will often result in comments suggesting or implying that the electrician responsible might have a promising career in plumbing.

More subtly they ask how many pairs of sweat pants the target owns. The perception is that only drywallers wear sweat pants on the job and that maybe the target should be considering switching trades.

Also Millwrights Vs. Electricians.
posted by Mitheral at 7:46 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


In music: "They've (You've) got their (your) own sound."
posted by sourwookie at 7:51 PM on February 4, 2013


"Highly vocal, non-strategic activists" are the crazy people who make advocates' work really difficult.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:51 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


My boss (lawyer) once told me I wrote like a judge. Ever since, I've been trying not to.
posted by Logophiliac at 7:53 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Art historians referring to a piece or an artist as "decorative"
posted by proximacentauri at 8:01 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Editor/copywriter here.

I say: "I think I might be a bit confused."
I mean: "I think you might be a bit confused."
posted by shiggins at 8:19 PM on February 4, 2013 [27 favorites]


What an amazing thread! This is an all-time favorite for me, hands down.

"He's a damn good shoemaker" means he's Elmer Fudd in relation to the trade he's practicing, e.g. restaurant front-of-house.
Most improved player.
Tries hard.
Great personality.
"I am not sure that word means what you think it means."
posted by LonnieK at 8:39 PM on February 4, 2013


Someone who “knows enough to be dangerous” is not usually being praised (software & publishing).
posted by theredpen at 9:11 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


This post was deleted for the following reason: Maybe come back and finish your post tomorrow? Mod speak for this is way too thin and a crap post.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:13 PM on February 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Keyboard-to-chair interface error. We use this where I work when speaking of some of our end users.
posted by fifilaru at 9:16 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Our SLA for these issues is 72 hours" = "Stop IMing me about this ticket you cut us half an hour ago, we have other shit to do."
posted by silby at 9:25 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I work in a weird intersection of IT and politics, and I'll add "being uncooperative". It roughly means any of: "I expected it to be cheaper / that isn't what I already decided / I'm not talking to you ever again, enjoy the new layer of middle management"

Oh god now I'm having flashbacks.

I don't know how widespread this is outside of heavily regulated industries, but one of the things that wasn't just a backhanded insult but was the absolute kiss of death, start looking for a new job, take all your stuff home immediately was if someone raised a concern about something you did and phrased it as an 'integrity issue'.

As in 'I'm just trying to understand why you ordered all of these promotional items costing over fifty dollars. It could give the appearance of an integrity issue,' when the boss had proof that the person had ordered a bunch of the sharper image catalog swag on their company card and given it out to their personal friends as Christmas gifts.
posted by winna at 9:27 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've heard that writers who are not in it for publishing, or part-time writers are called "dabblers" and it's considered pretty insulting among published authors.
posted by patheral at 9:28 PM on February 4, 2013


Retail, food service, or hospitality:

"I'll be with you in a moment." = As you can see, I'm busy at the moment, so chill the fuck out.
posted by book 'em dano at 9:31 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know how veiled this is, but in EMS I've heard the term handjob to refer to someone with more tools than training or sense. E.g., "Look at that handjob there with three radios on his belt."

When discussing a call, "respiratory distress," with the quotation marks either implied by inflection or added manually, means a medical complaint, but non-specific, probably non-urgent, and possibly non-existent.

In patient care reports, there's also a distinctive style of quoting patients as having "stated" things. E.g., "Patient stated, 'I'm fucked up!'" (That's a true story.) Or, "Slurred speech, pupils PERRL but eyes unfocused, stated he 'had two drinks.'"

Apparently, firefighters (or maybe more specifically engine crews) will say "ladder guy" to mean "stupid guy." Like, one of my instructors showed us a photograph of a car hanging over the side of a parking structure, wedged against the next building over. Standing right below it is a guy in turn-out gear poking at the bottom of the car with a Halligan tool. "Must be a ladder guy."
posted by d. z. wang at 9:41 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, just thought of another from EMS: "Have your symptoms changed recently?" means, "Nothing you have said so far qualifies as a medical emergency."
posted by d. z. wang at 9:50 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not industry specific, but my friends and I often say that a person must be an FOB or a Friend of Bill meaning he must be politically connected to be in that high of a position because he is a rock.

When I was in college, and apparently it still goes as my daughter is attending my alma mata, if we out-of-state students referred to someone as a state student" it meant he was dumb and filled the quota of required percentage of in state students.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:04 PM on February 4, 2013


In academic science:

"Nontrivial" = It is silly that you have suggested doing this in a short period of time because it could easily be the topic of a doctoral thesis.

"Hmm. That's a good idea." = It can't be done. However, you don't seem to understand that so let's move along.
posted by htid at 10:41 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Once, when working for a startup company during a crazy bubble in the industry, I emailed a top engineering expert and speaker about our company and the technology it was using. He actually emailed back. But rather than commenting on our technology, he just said "I wish your company good luck with its product."

I remembered later that I had seen this before. Snoopy, in a Peanuts cartoon, was asked to review a book some character had written. He read it, then jumped off his doghouse and shook the person's hand and in his thought-speech bubble said "Good luck, you're going to need it."
posted by eye of newt at 10:49 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In customer service, "We're sorry for the confusion about our policy" means "Clearly you didn't read it but now that we've explained it to you in small words hopefully you'll realize you're wrong and go away."

JohnnyGunn: Not industry specific, but my friends and I often say that a person must be an FOB or a Friend of Bill meaning he must be politically connected to be in that high of a position because he is a rock.

"Friend of Bill" can mean something very different. For that matter, so can "FOB".
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:54 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not backhanded, but obscured: doctors would refer to a horrible child patient as a SLIMB, snotty little manipulative bastard. I think my Dad said this might even go on the chart, but this was quite a few years ago. Also, FLK = funny looking kid.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:23 AM on February 5, 2013


One of my favourites from Australian politics (possibly applicable to any Westminster system) is calling a politician a "strong local member". It means they don't have the brains or the connections to ever make it to the front bench/cabinet/ministry.
posted by damonism at 12:34 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, FLK = funny looking kid

I asked my doctor sister about this when I first heard about it, and she said that it's not necessarily an insult.

Plenty of medical issues can manifest themselves in one's looks, but if a parent brings a kid in to a GP for some simple treatment - a vaccination, say - the doctor might observe physical features that *might* be indicative of some underlying problem, but it's only a hunch, they don't have time to fully diagnose it or haven't been asked to and/or it requires specialised lab tests, so they just annotate the kid's file so a future doctor might look into it or at least be aware that maybe something is amiss.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:17 AM on February 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Software engineer here. I often use the word "clever" to mean "too clever for their own good" or "genuinely clever, but in a way that completely misses the point" or "possessed of a twisted sort of intelligence, such that they attempt to solve problems by making them more complicated".
posted by Afroblanco at 1:46 AM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Editors at publishing houses rejecting a nonfiction book proposal:

"Really strong writing" = boring
"Not a good fit for us" = unsellable
"We'd love to see his next book" = didn't get past the overview graf
"Needs to develop a stronger platform" = I wouldn't waste a lunch on this guy
posted by gompa at 2:26 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my econ department, to say that a model or part of a maths model is "ad hoc" means "this model was not derived from utility-maximizing rational actor assumptions" and it is meant pejoratively. I believe "ad hoc" is used in a similar but more general sense among mathsy academic economists for a special or too-specific modeling assumption that has no specific justification.
posted by mister_kaupungister at 3:14 AM on February 5, 2013


When I worked in outdoor education in the West, if you referred to another group that you crossed paths with in the wilderness as "a bunch of yahoos" or "a bunch of boyscouts," that meant they looked totally unprepared for the wilderness they were currently in the middle of. Which meant that there was a good chance they were going to get themselves into some kind of trouble soon, and if you were nearby you were going to have to help them.

In the hierarchy of things, "boyscout" was meaner than "yahoo" because in our view a boyscout was someone who thought he was prepared for the wilderness, because he could lash two poles together at home, but who didn't actually understand much about the wilderness he was walking into. Which made him more dangerous in the grand scheme of things than a yahoo, who was often totally unprepared for the real wilderness, but who realized that a bit sooner sometimes. Also implied with "boyscout" and "yahoo" is the fact that those people don't seem to know the first thing about low impact camping, so even if they don't cause themselves any bodily harm, they are much more likely to trample all over the cryptobiotic soil, which takes 100 years to grow to appreciable size, or leave used toilet paper caught in the bushes, etc.

Which reminds me, I'm not much of a skiier, but having hung out with some more serious ones, I'm pretty sure that "He skies in jeans" means "He's a complete moron who couldn't ski his way out of a paper bag."
posted by colfax at 3:21 AM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, yeah, jean-skier is totally a thing. (It's been complicated by the Burton line of snowboard pants that look like jeans, but you can tell the real jeans by the dark blue wet patches). Regular skiers know to stay far, far away from these people who are likely to become an unguided missile and and end in a yard sale. They generally have 70s equipment, too -- dayglo jackets and long straight skis.
posted by unSane at 4:45 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Young and enthusiastic" in conjunction with critical production IT systems == reckless
posted by hardcode at 5:10 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


From some over-the-shoulder reading, I noticed that my electronic medical records had a number of notes written by specialists and addressed to my regular doctor, which all started with something like "I had the privilege of working with XYZ, who was a personable and cooperative patient." This made no sense to me (why butter up a patient who is never going to read the notes?) until I asked my GP about it, and he said, "Oh, yeah, if we call someone a hypochondriac or an obstructionist asshole, it can be subpoenaed in a malpractice suit. Convention in this hospital system is to pay close attention to notes where we DON'T write kind things in the opening paragraph."
posted by Mayor West at 5:23 AM on February 5, 2013 [20 favorites]


Also, mealy-mouthed-project-management speak: "going forward, we should do X Y and Z" = "you fucked up this simple process; here are step-by-step instructions for how to do it next time"
posted by Mayor West at 5:34 AM on February 5, 2013


It's sort of regional and entirely colloquial, but every now and then an attorney around here will refer to another a "a f*cking Cooley grad." (Even other Cooley grads.) AND I've noticed, also entirely regional, that in regards to judges "executive appointee" usually means "incapable of applying and enforcing the law and probably really rude."

We also have various colorful descriptions for prosecutors, but none of them are particularly roundabout and most are painfully, creatively explicit.

And semi-related, when an attorney has a client who insists on testifying, and then the lawyer just stands there and says, "And then what happened. And then what happened." is really trumpeting to the entire courtroom that the guy is totally lying.
posted by mibo at 6:09 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the world of touchy-feeling organizer-trainers, there are very few actual insults, but if someone says to you, "[it's possible to do thing], but know that...." then things are very bad. Also "I hear that you are [feeling/saying/wanting] thing" can be touchy-feely for "you are being really self-centered" or "you're babbling, stop repeating yourself".

So "I hear that you want to withhold that material, but know that you will not have the support of this organization..." is very, very bad - the "fuck off and die in a fire, we would step on your fingers if you were dangling off a cliff's edge" of movement people.

"I hear that you"... can actually be sympathetic, depending on the tone. "Know that you...." is always bad, especially if it is the start of a sentence.
posted by Frowner at 6:20 AM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"As I said before..." or "as I mentioned before..." means "start paying attention so I don't have to repeat myself".

Or over email when someone replies to an email asking a question you already answered in your original email, "please refer to my original email..." means "start paying attention so I don't have to repeat myself".

Or again over email when someone sends you a new email asking you a question you already answered in an unrelated email a very short time ago, just forwarding that email back to them without comment (or at most "FYI" or "See below") means "start paying attention so I don't have to EFFING repeat myself".

"Was this built in Dreamweaver?" means I'll be throwing out your code and starting over, and I'll be finished in 15 minutes.
posted by rocketpup at 6:49 AM on February 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Her patients love her" = she's fast and loose with the prescription pad.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:34 AM on February 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


I was just copied on an email that began "I can appreciate what you are requesting, but..."

Translation: No.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:09 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Groups of "Cavers" are frequently known to rescue "Spelunkers" from places they don't belong.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:11 AM on February 5, 2013


In almost any professional context: "I hear you" = "No".
posted by unSane at 8:14 AM on February 5, 2013


"Oh, you must be the drummer."
posted by schmod at 10:02 AM on February 5, 2013


I had a boss say "well, explain it to me better beause I'm not as smart as you" (I'm an online producer. She was a c-bag).
posted by stormpooper at 10:13 AM on February 5, 2013


and his joke was "Sociologists are kind of like historians, only we actually use data."

My historian friend tells me cheerfully: "Historians write about how life is today, using documented historical examples and incidents to carefully analyze in depth how we came to this point in time. Sociologists just write about how life is today."
posted by Melismata at 10:44 AM on February 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


BTW, this disparaging use of "clever" in IT has been more-or-less codified in a saying by Brian Kernighan, one of the co-creators of UNIX and the C programming language:
“Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.”
posted by benito.strauss at 11:02 AM on February 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


[Folks, I know it's hard but please don't debate these?]
posted by jessamyn at 11:04 AM on February 5, 2013


"My calendar is up to date" - You booked a meeting when I was unavailable or without enough notice and I'm not going to give any attention to your request at this time.

"High level" - you have to read this because of who the author is, but it will be ignored in implementation.

"Did I miss this?" - you never sent the requested follow-up.

"Gentle reminder" - exactly what you imagine it means.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:39 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


In screenwriting:
"the character feels familiar" =the character is derivative, cliche
"Let's put a pin in that" = whatever idea or request you had, you can forget about it
"We just want you to tweak a couple scenes." = You get to do a full-on rewrite, but for free
"Make it more family-friendly" = put a kid or a dog in it, or both.
"We think we want to take the script in a different direction." = you're fired
"That bad version is..." = Here's a terrible idea we just came up with, now it's your job to make the same concept not suck.
posted by np312 at 1:45 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somehow, the inbetween group -- the non-career Senior Executive Service appointees -- escaped a quick moniker.

Generally, when I have heard (and used) the term "SESer" it has not been a compliment. (Especially when preceded by "f-ing".)
posted by JoanArkham at 1:59 PM on February 5, 2013


When you hear the MC or a later comic say that a comedian was "working hard for you," they mean that he or she just bombed.
posted by msalt at 2:07 PM on February 5, 2013


Oh! And this started as a joke between my husband and I, but has seeped into our work lives: when someone has done something stupid and is complaining about suffering the consequences of it that's "a terrible, unforeseen tragedy."
posted by JoanArkham at 2:09 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my publishing company we like to say, "He/she is not a book person." Although with the rise of ebooks, that might soon become a compliment.
posted by editrixx at 2:33 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Possibly more of a cultural thing, and it's faded a bit in use, but it did sort of bring down a sitting prime minister in Japan: KY, which is short for 空気が読めない, or kuuki ga yomenai, literally, "can't read the air." More figuratively, it refers to someone with a critical inability to read the room, or understand the prevailing atmosphere.

Once this was openly applied to former PM Fukuda, his days in the office were numbered.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:33 PM on February 5, 2013


"Very prolific" for booksellers talking about authors who write way more than they should. Your Janet Evanovichs and James Pattersons.
posted by moons in june at 3:00 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Playground talk:

"He's working on being gentle." = He's gonna gouge your kid's eyes out. (Yes, I've said it about my own kid. Who will gouge your kid's eyes out on a bad day.)
"S/he's so expressive!" = That is one ugly baby you've got there.
"S/he has such a strong personality!" = Your kid is a total jerkhole.
"Wow, s/he really moves fast!" = Stop texting because your kid is totally going off the rails. Or, sometimes, shit that kid IS fast. (Mine gets this all the time because he moves at warp speed.)
"S/he has so much to say!" = Your kid needs to learn the fine art of piehole shutting.

Sometimes these are said honestly, but there's definitely a certain TONE. And when it's implied that your kid is an ugly jerk, you totally know.
posted by sonika at 3:20 PM on February 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm keeping schtumm about my own professional life, but I do know one from when I was dating someone on the amateur stand-up circuit, which was fairly incestuous and cliquey where we were: 'really professional' or 'slick' meant 'entirely soul-less and/or contrived with one eye on getting a TV panel gig.' Some did.
posted by mippy at 4:01 PM on February 5, 2013


When I was a theatre tech we referred to mediocre actors as soft props or warm props.

Never to their faces.
posted by deadwax at 4:38 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the not-for-profit world of volunteers, "everyone I talk to" is often substituted for "I."

It's not just me. Everyone I talk to thinks this is a bad idea.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:32 PM on February 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I stole a term from the exhibit guys at the Hands-on Museum: "Little Dears". As in, "Do you think that diamond plate treadle will stand up to the Little Dears?" Now I work in a library so it's more like "Let's trash this board book, one of the Little Dears blew his nose into it".
posted by ulotrichous at 7:23 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


In education, administrators will refer to a poor or recalcitrant teacher as "someone who should be counseled out of the profession" since it is so hard to actually terminate a teacher's contract.
posted by tamitang at 8:16 PM on February 5, 2013


(Some of mine aren't about people, but environments/departments. Hope that's still within the scope of the question.)

The Marine definition of Soldier, from Cryptonomicon: "A deprecatory term for a fighting man not good enough to be in the Corps."

djb: A "cowboy coder" works too fast to bother with comments, tests, exception handling, or version control.
And shops that operate that way are called "The Wild West".

"He has good job security" - In systems development, someone who rapidly creates overly specific bug fixes which correct the issue only under the exact circumstances in the problem report, rather than fixing the general problem. In other words, his solution will fail again and again for each possible manifestation, until he's created circumstance specific workarounds for each scenario. The flip side of having "good job security" is that he'll be stuck maintaining the same system for the rest of his career.
Also used for hackers who write code too incomprehensible to be maintained by anyone else.

"A jobs program" - A department dominated by job-security developers.

"There's a lot of work in that department" - They're managing systems which frequently break down and require urgent manual intervention and monitoring.

WAD - "Working as designed", used in the resolution description part of an issue report. Officially, this is for problem reports where the system is producing an unusual result that the customer isn't sure is correct; WAD means that it's been checked and is working correctly, ie. as intended. Unofficially this is the code used when we've decided to intentionally let an issue remain unsolved because it's too expensive to fix. Documenting the issue as "Known problem" implies that we'll fix it in the future but are too busy to get to it now; WAD is code for "we have no plans to ever fix it, you'll have to deal with it as is".

There are also lots of these sort of euphemisms hidden in job descriptions:
"Fast paced environment" - all issues are emergencies and all project schedules are "ASAP".
"Agile, dynamic environment" - conflicted project leadership which changes it's goals multiple times per day.
"Looking for someone with excellent communication skills" - either management always needs technical issues explained at a first grade level, or the rest of the team are foreigners with only an elementary proficiency in English.
"Willing to work independently" - lack of leadership to provide direction.
"Seeking a flexible candidate" - expected to work unpaid overtime.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:19 PM on February 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


"They're good at mopping."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:48 PM on February 5, 2013


Video game (MMO) community managers:

"Rockstar" - a member of the development staff (usually a designer, sometimes a producer, only rarely a programmer or artist) with a pronounced tendency to get on the internet and give interviews/make forum posts where they promise the world in order to look good to the players, and then blame everyone else and/or disappear from the public eye when none of the bullshit they spewed ever comes to pass.

"Let's think about the messaging strategy here" - "Your stupid idea is going to create a PR shitstorm of epic proportions that I will then have to shovel."

"The timing of that may be problematic" - "You're seriously going to publish that code change at 5pm on the Friday before a long weekend?"

"I understand this changelog entry as [x]. Do I have it right?" - "This changelog entry is completely meaningless. Did QA even test this?"

"If we have the bandwidth, this change might be a PR win for us." - "This is a seven-year-old bug and the fact that's it's not fixed yet is a running joke amongst our playerbase."

"We're instituting a review process for developer forum posts" - "You're a bunch of Sensitive Artists who can't take criticism and tend to lash out in public, especially when you've been drinking."

"We're working on refining the CEO's statements down into specifics" - "The CEO is a rockstar who hasn't spoken to any member of the company below the director level in a year nor has he ever played the game, and why he's promising art changes with a one-month time frame is fucking beyond me."

Fortunately the Metafilter team is small enough that we don't have many (any?) internal versions of these. The external versions... well, that'd be a MetaTalk post, wouldn't it?
posted by restless_nomad at 8:52 PM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


In playgroups: a "determined child" is a stroppy little shit.

A "relaxed parent" means a hippy dipshit who ignores their kid thumping others and stealing their toys and never wipes their unimmunised kid's nose or offers to help the other volunteer parents.
posted by taff at 11:36 PM on February 5, 2013


In my social sciences field, telling someone their work is "fun", or "amusing", or "very creative" is basically saying it's a waste of time.
posted by lollusc at 12:01 AM on February 6, 2013


She means well... (but destroyed many hours of my hard work with her incompetence).
He's nice but... (his technical skills are not up to my standards).
I say the whole sentence to bosses who need to know but just the first part to the person in question and peers.

I've said these of temporary co-workers I didn't want hired or people who I wanted to stop "helping me". I'm kind of a control freak at work- research technician, no one touches my experiments but me.
posted by bobobox at 5:21 AM on February 6, 2013


One I used today was, "I think it would make sense to...." This meant, "Why the FUCK haven't you done this already?!?"
posted by Chrysostom at 5:52 AM on February 6, 2013


My father's example is from a professional reference letter he was reviewing.

"You would be lucky to have this person do work for you" <-- total slacker.
posted by bumpkin at 8:20 AM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Chiming in on the cataloguer for librarians. Often means very socially awkward, stick in the mud who doesn't get where they profession is going. (Its all copy cataloguing and its getting outsourced a lot these days.)


Ad hoc or reactive when used to describe your records management practice means your business' record management programme is virtually non existent (or toothless) and current practice is shoddy.

If a records manager talks to you about maturity models to monitor improvement in practice, you can be pretty certain you're on the lowest level of that model. They think it will take you years to get you to the level you want and they're softening the blow.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 8:27 AM on February 6, 2013


In bowling, if you say someone is a good league bowler, that means they can put up some good scores on an easy pattern, but fails miserably on a sport or tournament pattern.

Also, referring to someone as a bowler is basically calling them stupid, i.e. "What would you expect from a bowler?"
posted by slogger at 8:44 AM on February 6, 2013


When it comes to nonprofit organizations, "they've got a great mission" can mean "they're stupefyingly dysfunctional and/or run by assholes"

It can also mean "their mission is great". Context is very important.
posted by Ndwright at 1:58 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


In snowmen, "He's got a lot of character" means "that's one crappy snowman."
posted by amanda at 3:55 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


In mathematics:
trivial = super-easy.

Non-trivial = hard. Possibly very hard. (Eg solving could lead to a paper. Or dissertation. Or, it's just hard.)

Technical=pain-in-the-ass. As in, "the proof is straightforward but technical."
posted by leahwrenn at 7:17 PM on February 6, 2013


Math also has:
"obvious" = not worth my time to write out the details, and, by implication, if you don't immediately see that it's obvious too, then you're not as smart as me.

Which leads to the old math joke:
A math professor is lecturing through a rather long and complicated proof. At one point he says, "It is obvious that equation 32 follows from 31."

A student towards the back of the lecture hall asks, "How is that obvious?"

The professor looks back at the blackboard, starts to speak, but then remains silent as a consternated look falls across his face. After ten minutes of silent pondering, he erases three blackboards and manically fills them with equations, derivations, and other expressions. After another half-hour of furious scribbling--eventually filling both sides of two more free-standing chalkboards--he exclaims, "AHA! I was right! It is obvious!".
posted by benito.strauss at 8:46 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my math(s) class at Oxford, 'obvious' was an obvious (see what I did there) red flag in a proof and I still think of it that way. When someone says something is 'obvious' the first thing you do is make them prove it. If it's really obvious, it will be easy. And I learned that, by extension, in other walks of life when someone says something is obvious, they have often just revealed the weak point in their argument, and you should attack it like a terrier.

Another math one: when an answer 'shows a general correctness of approach', that means it is hopelessly wrong but at least you went about it in roughly the right way.
posted by unSane at 9:10 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


My late rocket scientist dad (who was Southern & well versed in Bless Your Heart) used to refer to a less-than-clever coworker as The Wedge (a simple machine) and another always absent coworker as the Stealth Engineer (like the Stealth Fighter).
posted by gov_moonbeam at 9:54 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have this thread to thank for not applying for a job I saw advertised today. It mentioned "strong personalities" and "high-pressure environment." I thought of this thread and immediately moved on.
posted by altopower at 3:58 PM on February 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


altopower- if I see an advertisement for a house-share that says 'must have a sense of humour', I know it means 'we are all inconsiderate pricks and don't want to be called out on it'.
posted by mippy at 6:51 AM on February 8, 2013


"guess I'm not the target market"

Any creative project (movie, music etc) that I find bemusing at best.
posted by philip-random at 3:33 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's an old story about one of the giants of twentieth-century physics (maybe Pauli?) receiving a crackpot paper for review. He starts to read it and mutters to the person next to him, "This isn't right." He reads a little further and says, "This isn't even wrong."

"Not even wrong" was recently appropriated as a book title, so this story is a little more widely known than it used to be.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:44 PM on February 8, 2013


Bureaucrat: "meets," as in "meets expectations" (perhaps you've heard "good enough for government work"?), in reference to work (or a worker) that's crappy but not crappy enough to go to the effort of tossing out entirely.

I'm not as smart as you

Oh god, one of the lawyers in my office says this whenever he thinks something I've written isn't clear. His arsenal of veiled put-downs is formidable.

"I'm all for admiring the problem, but can we discuss possible solutions?"

Totally, totally stealing this.
posted by psoas at 2:08 PM on February 9, 2013


Usually while on the phone:
"Well, if I could just get your name and number, I'll call you back after I've looked into this for you." = either I have no idea what the fuck you're talking about and I might be able to find out who does OR your request is ridiculous and I'm going to forget about this until almost the end of the day.

"He stepped out of the office," = you'd have better luck going out by the smoke shack. No, I don't know when he'll be back. Yeah, I'll get this message to him if and when I see him.

"Oh, I see. I think I know what's going on here and I'll call you right back in about 1/2 hour at the most. Can I have your contact number?" = I can solve this in less time than it would take me to explain it to you. Please, stop telling me your "crazy computer symptoms story" and get off the damn phone already.

"Just leave your computer as it is. I'll call you right back. / please wait an hour before logging back in." = I actually mean what I say. Don't touch a fucking thing. You'll only make it worse.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:18 AM on February 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to write letters for a lawyer.

We trust that your client will respond positively to our proposal = Please for God's sake talk some sense into your client and stop wasting our time.
posted by rozaine at 8:49 AM on February 10, 2013


Ooooh, Disreputable Dog reminded me.

"She's away from her desk right now" or "She stepped away" almost invariably means someone is in the bathroom.
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 AM on February 10, 2013


"She's away from her desk right now" or "She stepped away" almost invariably means someone is in the bathroom.

...or that someone is ducking your call.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:53 AM on February 11, 2013


One from my world:

"It's an intriguing idea, though we will need a bit more information to evaluate it. Please write up a proposal (using the attached template) and I'd be happy to review it to see whether it fits with our goals for next year's programming." = "You have a potentially cockamamie idea, and I don't really have the time to sit and listen to you describe it, especially because there is a good chance it will never happen. I am going to ask you to jump through a bunch of hoops to make sure you're serious, starting with this template of questions to get you to think about the factors you wouldn't have known to consider that may make you see for yourself why this program will never happen. Meanwhile I know that 90% of people will never bother to fill the template out, and their passion will peter out after the "I has a gr8 idea!!" stage, so this saves me a ton of time overall. But thanks for your enthusiasm."
posted by Miko at 10:25 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


In software engineering, a lot of subtle put-downs are expressed in terms of the technology a person is likely to have worked with.

Calling somebody a web developer is pretty insulting coming from a back-end guy, and might imply that their code is inefficient or incorrect in an obvious way.

"It's clear they've mostly written [some language]" means that they're unfamiliar with the conventions of whatever language they're writing in now, and that they have a narrow breadth of experience. The particular language makes a big difference in how insulting a thing it is to say, too. Saying someone mostly did C would be a fairly straightforward statement of fact, but saying they probably only knew Java would be pretty insulting. "Well, he's clearly a PHP programmer," might get you decked.

I imagine this varies a lot between subfields -- I doubt that PHP programmers would consider "PHP programmer" an insult. Interestingly, though, suggesting that somebody only knew Java was a put-down even in the Java community back when that was my day job.
posted by djspinmonkey at 8:48 PM on March 4, 2013


A swimmer who's a 'good team mate' would only be observed to be so if one wanted to draw attention to the fact that they simply were not a performant athlete.

A 'quality program' probably doesn't do enough mileage, a grinder doesn't coach anything else. A swimmer who 'beasted' that swim was.... not elegant. Though being 'beastly' is, umm, the good sort of bollocks.

An athlete who 'is work' probably has behavioural issues that wouldn't be tolerated without a history. A fragile swimmer would be called a prima donna anywhere else.

A coach who is a 'good organizer' probably shouldn't be responsible for your child's well being unless said comment is directly and immediately qualified.

To be 'low in the class' suggests that a paraswimmer's ability, whether due to disability or realized ability, is not exactly competitive with their peers.

A runner's kick is _at_best_ nonproductive, being called a hockey parent (here in the Great White north) is not complementary, and a 'great trainer' probably doesn't race anything worth mentioning.
posted by mce at 11:20 AM on March 5, 2013


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