photo of people talking
"Let's run this up the ladder before we make a decision."

Sometimes it seems that the workplace has its own language.

Where else could someone say, “Get your ducks in a row!” or “Let’s run this up the ladder before we make a decision,” and successfully convey their message?

An ongoing ASCE Collaborate discussion is collecting some of these communication gems, asking, “What is your go-to civil engineering idiom?”

Here are some highlights (and be sure to log in and contribute your own story):

James Williams, P.E., M.ASCE

Yorktown, Virginia

“One of our department’s favorite engineers would walk by someone’s desk and ask, ‘How long are you going to milk this project!’

“When doing informal submittal reviews and getting to one of those client decision trees: ‘We won’t count our chickens before they hatch!’”

Mary Loden, P.E., M.ASCE

Brookline, Massachusetts

“I had a boss who used to say, ‘The juice isn’t worth the squeeze.’ I now use that as often as I can.”

Joseph Reichenberger, P.E., F.ASCE

Monterey Park, California

“There is no such thing as a ‘small change.’ I tell my students [Reichenberger is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles] this every year in my capstone Design, Practice, and Ethics class when we discuss civil engineering failures. Some good examples: the Hyatt Kansas City walkway failure; Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Binghamton, New York, wastewater tank endwall failures; the FIU bridge failure; the Minneapolis interstate bridge failure; the classic eye-bolt failure. There was a small change in the original design and/or construction that caused these failures. If someone desires to make a ‘small change,’ investigate it thoroughly. Just because it looks ‘minor’ or ‘small,’ there is probably a reason the original design was done that way in the first place.”

Michael Kozinetz, Aff.M.ASCE

Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

“Speaking about a particularly slippery client rep who would never make a decision or respond in a timely fashion and avoid committing himself, I’ve heard, ‘He was raised in a round house; you can’t pin him down or put him in a corner.’”

George Watson, P.E., M.ASCE


“‘Cut to fit, weld to hold, paint to match’ is an old one I heard over the years.”

Join the conversation on ASCE Collaborate.