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in The Shop: The Way We Talk

Published on: 20:06PM Nov 04, 2011

 I borrowed this topic and information from an intranet website our mainline equipment manufacturer maintains to allow parts people, mechanics, and other dealership personnel to share information between dealerships all across North American. In this case, the topic was about some of the odd words and phrases customers use to describe the parts they want to buy at a parts counter.

Sometimes the unique words are regional. Sometimes they're mispronounced. Sometimes it's anybody's guess what the customer is talking about.

For example, one customer needed parts because the spleens were worn off inside his transmission. The parts person got him new parts with fresh splines, and the customer left happy. Another customer needed some canister wheels, which baffled the guy at the parts counter. Until the customer explained he needed the canister wheels for his zero-turn lawn mower. A set of caster wheels was the solution.

"Low Viscosity Oil" is a special hydraulic oil designed not to thicken when air temperatures get cold. One dealership had customers who routinely asked for "low velocity oil." The term has become so common in that region that some customers have extended the misunderstanding and now ask for "slow oil."

Lubricants are a common source of misunderstanding and mispronunciation. Lithium grease is a special formulation of grease. Some customers must want European grease, because they ask for, "...some of that Lithuanian grease." Maybe they want to use it on their lawn mower, which according to them has a, "...Kamasaki engine."

Sometimes you can figure out what customers mean by how they use their mystery words. When they ask for brake pads and ribbets, there's a good chance they'll be happy if you hand them a box of rivets. If you're down south and somebody asks for flying jets to go with the bearing they just purchased, you're probably safe to hand them flangettes to mount that bearing. And if they just had a gearbox rebuilt, they probably would appreciate synthetic gear lube when they ask for "sympathetic oil" to put in that gearbox.

I really don't have room to talk about the way other people talk. I've spent years weaning myself from calling hex nuts "burr nuts," still occasionally call the conveyor chain in a combine feederhouse a "rattle chain, and make no apologies for my use of "fountain auger", "headlands", and "wobblebox." But then, I AM from Iowa...