Being in the workforce, and more importantly, staying in the workforce, requires a certain amount of diplomacy. Sure, you’d love to tell a clueless end user exactly what you think of him, but most of the time your need to remain employed outweighs your need to express your personal opinions.
That’s why euphemisms are so great. Euphemisms are how “getting fired” turns into “involuntary attrition,” and how “propaganda” becomes “public diplomacy.” IT service desk workers have their own euphemisms that refer to end users, software, or management. Here are 5 common service desk euphemisms.
1. The Many Euphemisms for Clueless End Users
It would be impossible to pick just one here, because there are several good ways to refer to end users as complete dolts without them realizing it. As just three examples, there’s the popular “ID10T” (pronounced eye-dee-ten-tee, or eye-dee-ten-tango for a more military overtone), PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair), and PICNIC (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer). These are especially satisfying when you overhear an end user trying to sound smart to their coworkers: “Yeah, I called the help desk, and turns out my computer has an ID10T error, which was why I couldn’t log onto the system.”
2. Fear-Driven Development
Fear-Driven Development isn’t limited to the IT department, but could apply to anyone who, already under pressure to perform, receives news that makes the situation even more dire. For example, if a programming team’s efforts are not progressing at a pace that makes management happy, they may “help” the situation by firing a team member, moving up deadlines, or cutting project resources. In this situation, it’s solely the fear of consequences should the project fails that keeps the team going. If it’s the only motivational technique used where you work, maybe it’s time to polish up the old resume.
The first word of this acronym is a rude word referring to a person’s lack of information about his or her lineage on the father’s side, with the last word referring to the place one hopes not to go upon death. The two middle terms are “Operator From.” Now fairly common internet slang, the original BOFH was a fictional rogue system administrator created by Simon Travaglia who lashed out at end users, managers, or anyone else who bothered him with problems brought on by stupidity. While actual BOFHs are rare (due to the whole “need to remain employed” thing), there are countless people who wish they could get away with BOFH behavior.
4. Numerous Euphemisms for Programming Problems
Again, there’s no one definitive euphemism for messed-up code. There’s the “Crapplet,” which is a poorly-written or useless Java applet, the downloading of which is a complete waste of time. There’s “hairball” code, which, like its literal namesake, is a tangled, snarled mess that nobody wants to handle. And then there are various errors, like the “Heisenbug,” a bug that changes behavior when you attempt to probe it, and the “Schroedinbug,” a bug that isn’t apparent until someone reading the source code discovers that it never should have worked, which magically renders the program inoperable for everybody until it’s fixed.
To the outsider, it may seem odd that people have jobs that are so dull and uninspiring that they deliberately sign up for training programs as a brief “vacation” from their normal duties. Yet just about anyone in the corporate world either has been or knows someone who has been that person. The problem is, when the IT department wants to educate end users about new help desk features, or a new service catalog, a high percentage of trainees are there not out of enthusiasm for the information, but because they hate their jobs, want to appear eager to learn for their supervisors, or because the training room is next to the vending machine with Peanut M&Ms.
Like all slang, IT help desk slang evolves with the times. Who knows what new technological inventions can be folded into veiled insults in coming years! Just keep it on the down-low. You wouldn’t want to face involuntary attrition.