Words at Work

Words at Work

Can you help us to identify the words, phrases, and expressions particular to your workplace?


Has a server ever comped your desserts? What did the plumber mean when they said they were going to sweat the pipes? Did you pass the doctor’s Woolworth’s Test?

If you regularly carry a halligan as part of your kit, or spent this morning putting out shelf talkers, we would love to hear from you.


Although television dramas have made most of us familiar with terms such as ’you’re nicked’ (you’re being arrested or apprehended) or ‘code blue’ (bring the resuscitation kit), many words and phrases used by people at work lead to blank looks from outsiders, and slang especially can be harder to understand. Sometimes, that’s the point: you’d probably rather not hear your doctor describe someone as a gomer (that is, a difficult or disagreeable patient), and your veterinary friend may shy away from explaining DSTO (our sources tell us that it means ‘dog smarter than owner’). However, at other times, not understanding the words used in a trade just leads to confusion. Not everyone knows, for instance, that sweating the pipes is plumbing slang for soldering two pipes together. The OED already includes many terms from all kinds of trades and professions, but there are many more that will not yet have come to our attention– and that’s where we’re asking for your help. Whether you and your colleagues use terms that are specific to your workplace, or you’ve heard an expression and not understood it, we would love to hear about it!


So whether you’re a doctor or a journalist, a firefighter or a builder, a shopkeeper, teacher, plumber, marketer, or anything else, we would like to hear from you. Please use the form below to tell us about the vocabulary you use at work or have heard others use.

You can also join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #wordsatwork.

Which words do you use at work?

  • e.g. gomer, to sweat the pipes
  • e.g. a difficult or disagreeable patient, to solder pipes together
  • e.g. medical, plumbing

Posted by Charlotte on 30 January 2019 9.30