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What's the Good Word?

February 29, 1996|BETTIJANE LEVINE

Jargon.

It's the stuff that separates the animals from the first-timers, the knockoff artists from the hogwagons.

Over the years, outside forces have attempted to ban the paper hangers and the SACs and other jargonese, but private-speak has survived and thrived.

Last week jargon was attacked once more when Eugene Hickok, the Pennsylvania education secretary said enough already! "Any bureaucrat who slips an acronym in, uses a noun as a verb or submits a garbled memo must put a dollar into the Jargon Jar," he said clearly--the proceeds to be donated to buy CD-ROM dictionaries for schools.

If Mr. Hickok had a dollar for some of the jargon we found at the Department of Water and Power (hogwagon), the FBI (SACs), the Postal Service (animals) as well as in the worlds of movies (first-timers), law (paper hangers) and fashion (knockoff artists), every kid in Pennsylvania would have a CD-ROM dictionary.

Read on. We promise you'll never look at a mule or a pig the same way again.

Postal-Speak

* Mule: a small electrical vehicle in which postal workers transport mail.

* Mule driver: drives the mule.

* Speedy: a piece of special delivery mail.

* Red: a piece of registered mail.

* SPBS (pronounced "spibbs"): a worker who sorts small parcels and bundles, or Small Parcel and Bundle Sorter.

* Flatsorter: a worker assigned to sorting large envelopes manually or by flatsorting machine.

* Animal: postal employee who works outside on the docks, loading and unloading mail trucks.

* Zombie: worker assigned to the graveyard shift.

* Bomb: a heavy volume of mail to sort, as in, "Every Easter we get hit with a bomb."

* Nixie: a piece of mail on which the city and ZIP code do not match.

* Fingering: the act of a letter carrier thumbing through his / her satchel and pulling out mail for delivery at the next house.

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