When we reached the Treasure Island hotel and casino, I pointed to the sign out in front, which said nothing about Treasure Island, and instead featured the letters “TI.” I told her that the casino had gone through a rebranding a while back, and while most people still called it Treasure Island, they went to great lengths to remind people that it was now, in fact, TI.
“But when I see TI,” she told me, “I immediately think of the terminal ileum.” The terminal ileum, as I have learned, is the spot where the small intestine ends and the large intestine begins.
It got me to thinking about what I like to call “sub-English.” It’s still the English language, but it’s composed of very specific terminology that only certain sub-sections of English speakers understand. For example, a plumber knows that MCL is the maximum contaminant level (the maximum level of a contaminant allowed in water by federal law), but a sports therapist knows that MCL is the medial collateral ligament, one of the four major ligaments of the knee. To the rest of us, they’re just letters.
A lawyer knows that a postpetition transfer is the transfer of a debtor’s property made after the commencement of a case. An electrician knows that an electronic ballast is a device that regulates the voltage of fluorescent lamps. And an editor knows that stet means “let it stand.”
And the most remarkable thing? Each sub-section adopts its own sub-English without even being aware of it. So while two investment bankers understand each other perfectly, to an outsider, they’re speaking gibberish.
So don’t be too hasty to judge the guy who’s referencing “king stud.” He could be a carpenter.
By Steve Boudreault