Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Phrase That Pays

I love words.

I like big words, certainly, but most thoughts can be expressed in easy to understand, commonly used terms and I appreciated writers whose voice is of the common man instead of some pompous phonics junkie.

What I savor are those great little phrases which may have started out of a joke but ended up being used in everyday conversation, at least by a small group.

I offer the following examples:

“Spin Dry” My friend Connie introduced me to this term (she has been the bearer of many language gifts). In the professional aviation industry this refers to the rehab a pilot is sent to after coming to work drunk. Where someone with a normal job would not even consider coming to work drunk, commercial pilots often have fairly quick turn-arounds, spend many a night in hotels in cities far from home, and those who might be inclined to hang out in bars have plenty of opportunity. After “Spin Dry,” one will either refer to this experience as “the help I needed after an error in judgment” or “that crappy place where the company sent me to justify my later firing – because management are a bunch of assholes – I don’t have a problem – I can stop anytime I want – I’ll have another scotch and make it a double.” Or so it seems to me.

“Fire Investigation” This is a little more sinister and the source shall remain anonymous, but the term is equally great. There is a certain type of man who, when in conversation with a woman in the workplace, will not maintain eye contact but will instead stare directly at the woman’s cleavage. Not necessarily in a “hostile workplace” kind of way, but either irritating or flattering depending on the maturity of the woman in question. (Perhaps I'm being a pig myself for suggesting that women who find this flattering are immature. Oh well). Since the person who did this most often (during one period of time in one office in one company) was a Fire Investigator, the women involved started referring to the activity in general as “fire investigation.” Okay, that’s a lot of explaining but the next time you see a guy staring a woman’s breasts while talking to them in any place other than a strip club, think of them not as “pigs” but as “fire investigators.” At least it makes me laugh.

“the B” This refers to the supervisor of our dispatch center at any given time. The “B” seems innocuous enough, it could refer to “the Boss” or “the Queen Bee.” But it doesn’t. It actually refers to a much revered 29 year veteran dispatch supervisor who looked a great deal like Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show. My understanding is that the nickname, which she did not appreciate at all, was used only behind her back. When someone walked into the room looking for the supervisor and not finding one at the supervisor’s desk they might easily say “where’s Bea.” Co-workers in the know quickly covered any possible backlash if this was overheard by calling any supervisor the Queen Bee. Aunt Bea herself may never have known she was the start of a decades-long and enduring trend to refer to any dispatch supervisor as “the B.” The term is used dozens of times per day.

These are only three. I’ll add more as I come across them.


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