What words do you use at Work?


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February 4, 2019

Has a server ever comped your desserts? What do plumbers mean when they say they need to sweat the pipes? Have you seen a doctor or nurse collar and board a patient? Do you deal with mortar snot on a day-to-day basis?

While the majority of us know what job a chippie does, understand what it means to hot desk, and are familiar with terms such as you’re nicked or code blue there are vast numbers of words and phrases used by people at work that lead to blank looks from outsiders, with slang being especially hard to understand. Of course, sometimes, that’s the point! Doctors may not want you to understand what they mean when they describe you as a gomer and vets may shy away from explaining DSTO (our sources tell us this means ‘dog smarter than owner’). But, at other times, not understanding the words used in a trade can lead to total confusion.

The OED already includes many terms from all kinds of trades and professions but there are many more that have not yet come to our attention - and that’s why we’re asking for your help.

Whether you’re a doctor or a journalist, a firefighter or a builder, a shopkeeper, teacher, plumber, marketer, or anything else, we would love to hear about the words and expressions you use at work. Send them to our website What words do you use at Work?or join the conversation on Twitter at #wordsatwork.

Fiona McPherson, Senior Editor at the OED, comments: “When we use words every day at work, it’s difficult to imagine that their meanings might not be quite so obvious to other people. However, with such a vast array of professions and industries, it’s not surprising that certain terms from your own workplace may lead to looks of bemusement from those not in the know. Whether you have baffled others or been baffled, let us know about these words and terms from your working life.”

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