I do not think it means what you think it means.
February 16, 2012 10:20 PM   Subscribe

What is some bizarre and amusing industry-specific jargon?

In the course of working with a shipbuilder on something, I've come across some absolutely terrific specialized vocabulary such as "toilet mushroom", "monkey bridge", "scupper plug", "buster pump", and "butterfly nuts". One of my other favorite pieces of specialized vocabulary is from the steel industry: "pickle liquor".

There must be MANY more terms like these in various industries that would have an outsider scratching his/her head. I would love to know what amusing terms everyone has heard (along with a quick definition in layman's terms).
posted by holterbarbour to Writing & Language (53 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Gandy Dancer

Bull Prick
posted by blob at 10:26 PM on February 16, 2012

Militaries are great at this.

Naval Terminology, Jargon and Slang

List of USMC acronyms and expressions

my favorites are 'ink stick' for pen and 'go-fasters' for running shoes.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:27 PM on February 16, 2012

Do you know the real origin of the term "Joystick"?

The original joystick was the one in early airplanes which the pilot used to control the plane. It stuck up between his thighs. He held onto it and moved it around. Um, I think you can see where we're going with this.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:27 PM on February 16, 2012

BDLD = big dog / little dog
which means "dogfight" (wounds) in animal medicine
posted by bebrave! at 10:30 PM on February 16, 2012

T-shirt printing:

"sploodge" a big wad of ink came sploodgin' through the screen

"ink on shirt" (IOS) Just print it quick, don't worry about quality. "Just get some ink on this shirt,"

"bullerproof" or "jar-opener" really thickly printed especially with Plastisol, also known as "printing by the pound"
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:35 PM on February 16, 2012

Best answer: Glassblowing is a real treasure trove of these; lots of "flash that in the glory hole for a minute and then paddle its bottom" kind of stuff.

(For the layperson, that means to heat up the piece in an oven until it's soft again, and then pull it out, take it over to the bench, and rotate its bottom against a wood paddle. It's how you make the bottoms of flat-bottomed things.)
posted by troublesome at 10:35 PM on February 16, 2012

I worked in a toy store for a while as a teenager.

There, I learned that the middle aisle in your average mall toy store - the one with all the GI Joes and Hot Wheels and toy guns and such - is called Male Action.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:40 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

In software, a "kludge" is a misbegotten patch which is embarassingly lousy in design.

It's derived from a Scottish term "kludgie" which means "an outside toilet".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:51 PM on February 16, 2012

The original joystick was the one in early airplanes which the pilot used to control the plane. It stuck up between his thighs. He held onto it and moved it around. Um, I think you can see where we're going with this.

They called it a joystick well before it was placed between the legs on planes.
posted by empath at 11:01 PM on February 16, 2012

Response by poster: These are all great! More than slang terms, however, I am for standard industry terms, like something a technical writer would have to know. Thanks all!
posted by holterbarbour at 11:03 PM on February 16, 2012

Best answer: A television segment aired within a reporter's live shot is a "donut."

When producers run out of the last few precious minutes to feed a piece to the newsroom and instead have to air it live, directly from their location in the field, it's a "hot roll."

When television news cameramen swarm a person to get a shot it's called a gang bang. I have also heard the fellas frequently call these types of shots pig-f***s. I hate both these terms, they are kind of the worst.
posted by sestaaak at 11:18 PM on February 16, 2012

Out Trade, originally referring to a disagreement between the parties trading on an exchange floor regarding the details of a trade.

(Also now used in some cases as a generic term for difference of opinion, specifically the difference of opinion in interpreting the same thing. For example, when you leave a meeting and two people have completely different ideas about what should be done next they have an 'out trade' on the next steps. Basically 'different understanding of the facts that has to be resolved before we can move forward.')
posted by true at 11:20 PM on February 16, 2012

Best answer: There's always the turboencabulator
posted by empath at 11:23 PM on February 16, 2012

If you want to read about the weird jargon used by computer programmers, you could read the Jargon File.
posted by chrchr at 11:27 PM on February 16, 2012

The Jargon File
posted by phrontist at 11:41 PM on February 16, 2012

99% of the language of film production is like this. These are basically industry standard terms.

Some terms are just fact names for regular items:

Stinger - extension cord
C47 - clothes pin

Some are equipment:
Butt plug - baby to jr pin
Elvis or a Lisa Marie - Gold or silver lame reflector
Onkey bonk - bead board holder
Cheeseborough - speed rail clamp

Almost every tungsten light has it's own name:

1kw open face - Redhead
2kw open face - Blonde (hotter than a redhead)
1k fresnel - Baby
2k fresnel - Baby junior or BJ

Some are actions/commands:
Single down - add a single scrim
Double down - add a double scrim
Triple down - add a single and a double scrim
Home run - 2 double scrims

Then there are some others:
Martini - last shot of the day (next shot will be in a martini glass)
Abby Singer - second to last shot of the day (named after an assistant director who always came up with one more shot after already calling the Martini).
posted by nathancaswell at 11:49 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Tree planting terms courtesy of mr. hgg:

dibble: tool for making holes in soil
screef: to scrape the surface material off the dirt so you can have a clean planting area
duff: what you screef
highballer: someone who is a fast planter
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:53 PM on February 16, 2012

Best answer: moveable point frog
posted by and for no one at 12:25 AM on February 17, 2012

Response by poster: (And yes, I know the encabulator is--sadly--fictional. But that's definitely the sort of thing I'm going for)
posted by holterbarbour at 1:05 AM on February 17, 2012

To expand on Nathancaswell's list of film industry slang, if you're interested, there's actually an entire book devoted to it - suitably titled "Strike the Baby and Kill the Blonde."
posted by Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld at 2:22 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some more treeplanting terms that could mean more than one thing.
Crummy: a truck that takes you to the block (logged area).
Reefer: big truck trailer that keeps boxed seedlings refrigerated.
Fist: a mini reefer and crummy combined.
Slash: All the logging debris left on the block that you have to climb over.
Creamer: A treeplanter who exploits easy land to others planter's disadvantage.
Bever Fever: Giardia. A stomach bug from drinking bad water.
posted by jade east at 2:33 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: The roustabouts, roughnecks and the derrick hand all work for the tool pusher.
Everything's usually fine until they start tripping out.
posted by atchafalaya at 2:36 AM on February 17, 2012

I am always amused when people trying to prevent or otherwise deal with the negative effects of a thing have job titles named after that thing, suggesting they actually supply it. For example, there seems to be lots of jobs for "domestic violence coordinator".
posted by curious_yellow at 3:39 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

previously, specific to computers, computer science and IT.
posted by ellenaim at 4:16 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: There is a piece of a tube train (on the Jubilee Line ALSTOM 95/96TS) called a Scrotum Box. It protects some sort of equipment on the underside of the train, I'm not sure what.
Possibly a pair of large nuts? (I don't think it is actually this)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:00 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

In museums, we call the little label (with date of piece, artist, acquisition date, etc) you see next to the object the "tombstone."
posted by Mouse Army at 5:31 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only one I can think of off the top of my head for veterinary medicine is that the drug most commonly used for euthanasia is called "Pink Juice" after its bright pink color.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:33 AM on February 17, 2012

LaTeX has a, um, parameter called 'badness' for measuring how undesirable the linebreaks in a paragraph are. (This explains it a bit.) So naturally, I've started saying 'badness' in other contexts.
posted by hoyland at 5:49 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: Welding: Butt Joint
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:57 AM on February 17, 2012

posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 5:57 AM on February 17, 2012

Here's the genius of Fry and Laurie addressing this in a hardware store.
posted by merocet at 6:10 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Drosophila (fruit fly) researchers are famous within biology for coming up with funny gene names.

posted by Cygnet at 6:18 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: "Duck butter" from my life as a plumber.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:29 AM on February 17, 2012

Consultant jargon:

"Bandwidth" – Attention span
"Best practice" – The way leading companies do something
"Boil the ocean" – over-delivering; wasting time/energy
"On the beach" – consultant without an active project
"30,000 foot view" – Generalised summary
"hard stop" – A defined moment when a meeting, call, or project ends.
"colour" – add qualitative details/story/meaning to quantitative data
"ping" – Email/phone call/text message to follow up on something
"creep" – Mission creep or scope creep; clients expanding a project beyond contract terms.
"low-hanging fruit" – easy to accomplish goals
"come to jesus" – revealing a big problem to a client

And the worst of all gets it's own paragraph.

"revert" – "Let me read this and I will revert to you later." Revert means to go back to a previous version of something. A teenager reverts to childish behaviour. You revert to a previous word document, loading a copy saved earlier. Revert means to undo a step in a progression.

Please outline your availability and I will revert once I have a clearer indication...

That is intended to mean "I will get back to you". But what it means is that whoever wrote this is going to become a previous version of themselves once they have a clearer indication of something related to someone else's availability.

If we wrote that as a "straw man":

"Please outline your availability, and I will revert once I have a clearer indication of Jane's schedule"

So once you have an indication of Jane's schedule, you will become something else. What will you revert to? A debutant? An ape? A drunk college man? Bacteria? An embryo? (that would surprise your mother! it might exceed her bandwidth.)
posted by nickrussell at 6:42 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Coders tend to say that this piece of code is totaly fubar'd
posted by tempythethird at 6:43 AM on February 17, 2012

Strike the Baby and Kill the Blonde book of -film set jargon.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:59 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: Rip rap is a term used in engineering fields. It's the bouldery-extra-huge-gravel-like stuff in drainage and embankment features.
posted by that's candlepin at 7:44 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: From X-ray crystallography: mother liquor [PDF]
posted by en forme de poire at 8:28 AM on February 17, 2012

I am a database developer. The non-developers I work with never cease to be amused when I talk about the 'back end'.
posted by Acheman at 8:34 AM on February 17, 2012

A barn is a unit of area in nuclear physics. It's very small (10^-28 square meters), the size of a uranium nucleus - but compared to more normal materials that physicists were used to working with before the atomic bomb work started, uranium is "as big as a barn".
posted by aimedwander at 8:38 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Aviation and its related engineering disciplines:

-"Clean" and "Dirty", referring to the flap settings. Lowering the flaps would be "dirtying it up".
-"Porpoising" is a - I hesitate to call it "style" - of landing where you strike the ground too hard, the plane bounces up, hits the ground again, bounces... it looks a bit like a porpoise jumping out of the water.
-"Dzus bolts" are a particular type of captive screw that won't escape and, say, get sucked into the engine, even if they somehow loosen themselves.
-"Squawk" can either be a command from ATC to use a particular transponder code - "Squawk 1234" or can also mean a deficiency report handed in to maintenance. "There's a squawk on that airplane, the engine is running rough."
-"Hangar rash" is the combination of small dents and paint scrapes you get from cramming too many airplanes in a single hangar. You'll also often hear about the "Old T's", or T-hangars (each unit is in the shape of a T to accommodate the wings) that were built a long time ago and have been supplanted by newer sheet-metal constructed square hangars. All airports seem to have a set of Old T's.
-"V-speeds" are airspeeds that refer to particular minimums/maximums. Rotation speed, maximum flaps extension speed, stuff like that. It's a little redundant because the "V" in this case stands for Velocity, but there you have it.

My favorite piece of "jargon", though, is the naming convention for airway intersections. There are predefined routes up in the air that usually go from navigation aid to navigation aid, and when these routes cross they get a five-letter named intersection. They are all named so that they are pronounceable in English, and they usually have some local significance. For example, a major intersection over Boston is named BOSOX (after the Red Sox). Looking at the New York City area, there are some named APPLE, GRITY, TICKL, PROUD, EMPYR, PAZTA, and WORMY. Not entirely sure what that says about the FAA's opinion of New York.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:08 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

British medics use a brilliant, hypothetical instrument which enables them to see what should have been done with the benefit of hindsight. The tools is called the retrospectoscope.

English lawyers refer to 'the man on the clapham omnibus' as shorthand for what a sensible, objective, resonable person without an interest in an issue would think about an issue.
posted by dmt at 9:14 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

snarge - (Aviation) The bloody goo produced when an animal, usually a bird, collides with an aircraft. (Discovered this after the Chesley Sullenberger landing.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:18 AM on February 17, 2012

From visual effects:

"nurnies" or "greebles" are used interchangeably to describe clusters of small, random details on objects like spacecraft. More broadly, anything that serves no conceptual purpose other than to add visual interest is a greeble/nurny.

A "hero" prop is something that will be seen up close and needs to be built to a higher level of finish than one that is used only for background set dressing.

A "render wrangler" is a person whose job it is to watch over a render farm.
posted by balistic at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2012

Eating your own dog food
posted by matildaben at 10:29 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

A few medical slang terms I've read about--

lipstick sign--you can tell a female patient in the hospital is doing better when she cares enough to put her lipstick on.

ceiling sign--a test for appendicitis--when you palpate the abdomen where the appendix is, the patient hits the ceiling.

GOMER--get out of my emergency room--don't remember the exact definition of this, but I remember it wasn't very nice and referred to certain elderly patients.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: Diner jargon is great.

The terms associated with processing flax into linen are wonderful to me, but they're not quite as lingo-ey. But hearing them together, they are words that sound like they've been in the English language for a really long time, and could be meaningful in any slightly-anachronistic pastime. Retting, Scutching, stricks, hackles, threshing, heckling (this image might make the more modern meaning of the word make sense to you), distaffs, rocs, tow, boon.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:51 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've always liked "painted blue" from the C programming language (which is only moderately well-known among programmers but is (was?) an official part of the standard) and "Thagomizer" in paleontology (which I have only Wikipedia's word on).
posted by eruonna at 2:13 PM on February 17, 2012

(That Wiki page also has links to "Other scientific terms first used in comedy".)
posted by eruonna at 2:14 PM on February 17, 2012

If you like the "turboencabulator", experimental quantum physics offers too many terms to list. Most just sound a bit unusual and hi-tech but I think the "squid amplifier" qualifies as bizarre.
posted by springload at 4:27 PM on February 17, 2012

In the pediatric emergency room (USA):

-"dippity doo" is a fractured extremity with a very obvious deformity.

-"pink elephant" is a bright pink enema. When the enema flows out of its bag and into the transparent tube, it looks like a pink elephant.

-"spin-the-noodle" is a head cat-scan.

-"ditzel" is a very small laceration

-"bug juice" is an antibiotic.

-"FOS" is full-of-stool, a common complaint.

-"FLK" and the related "FLP" are funny-looking kid and parent, respectively. FLK specifically refers to a child having features consistent with a genetic disorder, so it's rather politically incorrect.
posted by werkzeuger at 5:40 PM on February 17, 2012

"Squid amplifier" reminds me of "Squid giant axon", in which some of the most foundational work in neuroscience was done.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:44 PM on February 17, 2012

I know some from the funeral industry, but I'm not entirely sure you want to read them...
posted by Vavuzi at 8:22 PM on February 17, 2012

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