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Three Words Engineers Use To Annoy

Three Words Engineers Use To Annoy

A weekend wrestling with Christmas Trees and discovering the ‘decorations-tax’ you encounter when you take the bold leap from a 4’ to a 6’ tree has finally put me in a seasonal mood. Before the feeling of good will to all men (and women, of course) engulfs us, however, I thought it now would be a good time to share these three words that engineers only say when they want to annoy each-other.


As in: “and it’s obvious”

People who work in technical fields should be banned from calling anything obvious. If it took you five years and a masters degree to understand it, it’s not obvious. Moreover, if you have to tell someone something is obvious, it probably isn’t. In Civil Engineering where everyone is a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ with differing experiences and specialisms the word just becomes the verbal equivalent of peacocking.


As in: “it can’t be that difficult…”

This is an odd one. Despite the fact that engineers are always moaning that no-one understands them, it seems to be remarkably common that they’ve paradoxically not tried to understand each other. The number of times I’ve seen someone dismiss the complexities of another discipline simply because it appears simple to them is just depressing- and a habit I suspect that will come back to bite us when the “it can’t be that difficult to make all BIM files the same format” assumption turns out to be false.


As in: “if you could just…”

Few words get me more worried than “just”. If someone asks you to “just” do something, you can guarantee it’ll take five weeks and require a redesign of the whole structure. If someone refers to a detail with the prefix “just”, without a doubt it’ll turn out to be the most complex aspect of the whole building- becoming more exception than rule. If a programme timescale includes the term “just”, well- you might as well treble it right then and there. The worse part, however, is that whoever issued the instruction of ‘just’ will continue to think of it as a ‘just’ and become progressively more annoyed as you fail to deliver; even though it wasn’t you who said it would ‘just’ take a few hours to ‘just’ design the foundations.

Honestly, it can’t be that difficult not to use these words; I mean it’s obvious really- we just need too remove them from the English language.

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  1. TAN See Chee

    Yes, it is “obvious” and “just” too “difficult” not to use these three words in our conversation. Engineers are not wordsmith and should not be too sensitive to word used but the spirit of the dicussion and sincerity of feedback. We are no lwayer. It is obviously difficult just for people to admit mistake and move on, because many of us believe in infallability and perfection.


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