Silly Tuesday Questions, Jorge Luis Borges Edition

In most professions, trades, vocations, or other activities, there are certain words, phrases, terms, jargon, or other specialized language that sounds a little bit strange to people from outside that world. For instance, I’ve long considered that in the world of Constitutional law, both major Supreme Court cases dealing with consensual sex between men — Bowers v. Hardwick and Texas v. Johnson — suffer from unfortunate nomenclature, in those cases eliciting Beavis-like snickers from the more juvenile-minded (and, let’s face it, that’s pretty much all of us from time to time).

Today, I learn that another such odd taxonomy from the world of law, perhaps less giggle-worthy, but even more oddly-constructed, has fallen by the wayside (although some experts think it will soon have a zombie): the Paralyzed Veterans Doctrine. It just feels strange to even say all three of those words together.

My question to you all is: what are some of the more odd phrases from your respective walks of life?

 

Image credit: wikimedia commons.

 

Burt LikkoBurt Likko is the pseudonym of an attorney in Southern California and the managing editor of Ordinary Times. His interests include Constitutional law with a special interest in law relating to the concept of separation of church and state, cooking, good wine, and bad science fiction movies. Follow his sporadic Tweets at @burtlikko, and his Flipboard at Burt Likko.

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35 thoughts on “Silly Tuesday Questions, Jorge Luis Borges Edition

  1. Sorry, I was in the middle of reading this and the dongle to the monitor came loose.

    Some years back, we were implementing some new internal-facing systems at my work. The acronyms for these systems were RATS and LOCOS.

    Anyway, some in management felt these names were inappropriate or offensive somehow, and raised a stink about it. They succeeded in getting RATS renamed, but we fought to keep LOCOS and won.

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    • I recall a rather eager intern who came running into the room and said “They’re letting me name the new [in-house] software! It’s JEDI!”. (I forget what the acronym actually stood for, but rest assured — people flew into space supported by software named JEDI).

      The other was the fact that we did, for quite some time, utilize the MCP to control a whole bunch of other software. Surprisingly few people got the Tron reference.

      Then again, the aerospace world is really acronym heavy. You just start to think they’re real words, not acronyms.

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  2. Many years ago, I was involved in a lunchtime conversation in the Bell Labs cafeteria, where we were discussing the right and wrong ways to correct problems with the UNIX process table, ie, the list of processes that held various system resources. In the interests of brevity, we all dropped the word “process” from what we were saying, so the conversation went something like this.

    A: But what do we do about zombies?
    B: Well, you can’t just kill one, it’s already dead. We’ll have to bring it back to life, as a child.
    C: Whose child?
    B: It doesn’t matter, it can be anyone’s child.
    A: No it can’t, it can’t be a parent who’s waiting for its own children to die.
    B: So it has to become the child of a parent who’s not waiting for any children to die.
    C: Right! Turn the zombie into the child of a parent without children, then that child can die properly.

    At that point the little gray-haired lady at the next table got up and announced “You people are sick!” before she stomped off.

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  3. In education, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is often referred to as Nickleby. Nicholas Nickleby is a Dickens book that prominently features a nightmarish boarding school.

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    • Similarly, in the Ontario wine industry*, the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) is sometimes referred to as the Lick-Bo…which could be taken the wrong way.

      (*probably the booze industry in general, but I wouldn’t know for sure.)

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  4. See the problem I have is remembering them all. A lot of them are company / program specific. And a lot of them are acronyms. So if I said NERC that wouldn’t mean anything to you and “my NERC” is not on Google….so…..

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  5. It’s not necessarily weird but in immigration, I find myself speaking in terms of the forms rather than the type of relief, so I’d refer to a form I-589 rather than asylum or a Special J.

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  6. We use “ad hoc” as a noun and a verb. We ad hoc data when we find mistakes, and those corrections are referred to as ad hocs. The thing that kills me is when we find a correction that has to be made every year, it gets labeled as a “standard ad hoc”.

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  7. I am tempted to throw out some of the lingo from my Army days, but I fear that I would end up violating the commenting policy.

    One odd linguistic tic that happens in the Army is that people can develop a tendency to refer to things using the taxonomy of military nomenclature, which is optimized for making long lists and proceeds from the larger category to the more specific. So, on an inventory sheet an M35 two-and-a-half ton cargo truck becomes: truck, utility, cargo/troop, 2-1/2 ton, 6×6, M36. Or a duffel bag is: bag, duffel, A10 cylindrical, duck nylon, camouflage G…

    You get people talking like this about all sort of things. Instead of saying, “that black supply sergeant in Alpha company,” they’ll say something like “the NCO, E-5 type, supply, African American, Alpha Co.”

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  8. In one of the places I worked at, everyone referred to a collection of related drawings as a “drawing package”, which was shortened to “package”. When changes were necessary, you’d call a meeting and have a few spare sets of eyes look over the changes you’d made to your package and make comments.

    The first few times someone asked me to review his package, it took every ounce of mental strength I had not to look down and say, “Not bad, I’d give it a 7”.

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