Friday, September 23, 2016


At our political headquarters, we mount the campaign banners daily on the outdoor railings and then take them down at closing because we don't want them defaced or stolen.  We usually mount them shortly after opening the office.

One day, a volunteer came in early and asked what she could do to help and I said, "Take the strap locks and tie the banners to the railings."  She asked, "What are strap locks?"  I handed a package to her;  she laughed and said, "Oh, I thought it was some fancy tool;  we always called them zip ties." Later, we were discussing different names we'd heard used for the ubiquitous items.   "Tie wraps", "hose ties", "zap straps", "cable ties" and "plastic chains" were among the examples.   

The first ones were sold under the brand name "Ty-Rap" and had been designed for use in the aircraft industry.

I told her that before I began working in a factory, my brothers warned me that I would face a barrage of pranks and practical jokes, such as that rite-of-passage for kids: "snipe-hunting". They gave me numerous examples from their own experiences: being sent to get a "brass magnet", "big weight", "long stand", "can of steam", "left-handed screwdriver", "hammer grease", "eye measures", "striped paint", and "board stretcher".

Being told about "board-stretcher" was prescient because my very first "fool's errand" happened when I was told we needed a "bacon stretcher", but being forewarned, I did not fall for it.

Being forearmed, I was always wary and guarded, and when I was suspicious that I was about to be the victim of a prank, I would always say something like: "Don't you already have one of those in your tool box?"

My friend John Steinhauer told me his favorite: he was told he had to fill out an "ID-one-oh-t form".  Yes, he fell for IDIOT.

But after more than thirty years of never being fooled, one day one of my employees asked, "Sue, can you get me a SWEDGE from the crib?" I reacted, "Sure, you think that I'm going to fall for that?" The guy looked bewildered, but said, "I asked for one but the crib guy said you had to approve it." I said, "Yeah, right, is it on your breakdown?" He answered, incredulously, "It's called out on my breakdown." He pointed to his job description and yes, indeed it called for a SWAGE tool.

Of course I knew what a swage was; I'd seen it on numerous breakdowns. I realized that I had never heard it pronounced as "SWEDGE".   I'd never pronounced it myself before and realized I'd probably never heard the word spoken; in my mind, I'd always thought "SWAY-JUH" when I would see it on a breakdown.

I hurried to the crib and requisitioned the swage tool and sheepishly handed it to the worker. He'd never seen me acting that way; later his Team Leader said, "Lou asked why you acted so BIZARRE about the SWEDGE." I didn't share the reason for my paranoia.

Later I called my brother Norman and asked, "How do you pronounce S-W-A-G-E?" and I told him about the incident.  He said, "I don't know why, but it's always pronounced as SWEDGE in factories."

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