What’s your Govie Slang and Jargon?

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This topic contains 36 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 7 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #120887

    Tarryn Reddy

    We want to put together a government glossary of terms/ acronyms used in government.

    What are some unique government slang and jargon used in your agency?

    Do you know of any websites that already exist with this information?

  • #120959

    Steve Ressler

    There’s a couple government acronyms examples – https://www.govloop.com/page/government-acronyms-and

    Would be fun to have a translator to plain language.

  • #120957

    I get into a bad habit of using jargon/slang

    Some common jargon at my unemployment office

    WBA – Weekly Benefit Amount

    BYB – Benefit Year Beginning Date

    Late Cert – Late certification for benefits

    607B – The part of the law that says if you get a second year of benefits

    EUC – The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2008, referred to the media as “The Extension”

    EB – Extended Benefits – The last 20 week extension that let’s people hit 99 weeks of benefits

    Used in two sentences

    The claim should have been on a regular year, but was put on the EUC instead. Make the transitional claim 607B eligible and late cert him and everything should be ok.

  • #120955

    Charles Starkey

    Buzzwhack (http://buzzwhack.com/) has been around for years and captures lots of good buzz words and frustrating language. Not all of it is tied to government-speak, but a lot is and the rest is just fun to read. I was a gov’t contractor/consultant for years and I think that community probably invented most of these!

  • #120953

    Daniel Bevarly

    In my current org, we use SOW (scope of work) many times as a reference for what needs to be done and then referenced regularly when people stray from what they are supposed to be doing on that project. Sometimes we overlap our abbreviations. For example, we use CRA, meaning Community Redevelopment Agency. However, coming from a local govt background, I continue to reference and conjure up images of the Community Reinvestment Act.

  • #120951

    Heather Rattmann

    Some of acronyms we come across in the acquisition & management of GSA (General Services Administration) Schedule Contracts:

    BOA – Basis of Award

    CAV – Contractor Assistance Visit

    CSP – Commercial Sales Practices

    CTA – Contractor Team Arrangement

    EPA – Economic Price Adjustment

    eSRS – Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System

    FAS – Federal Acquisition Service

    FPR – Final Proposal Revision

    GWAC – Government Wide Acquisition Contract

    ID/IQ – Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity

    IFF – Industrial Funding Fee

    IOA – Industrial Operations Analyst

    MAS – Multiple Award Schedule

    SIN – Special Item Number

    TAA – Trade Agreements Act

    Specific GSA Schedules:

    AIMS – Advertising & Integrated Marketing Solutions

    FABS – Financial and Business Solutions

    MOBIS – Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services (the GSA Schedule for management consulting & training)

    PES – Professional Engineering Services

    TAPS – Temporary Administrative & Professional Staffing

  • #120949

    Kathleen Smith

    Some from my edge of the community:

    do you have the right ticket or badge to enter the SCIF?

    are you a blue light special?

  • #120947

    Heather Rattmann

    I just learned what a SCIF is on Elliot in the Morning’s radio program – believe it or not!

  • #120945

    Tarryn Reddy

    Thanks, great feedback from everyone!

    By the way had to look this up SCIF- Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (pronounced “skiff”) is is an enclosed area within a building that is used to process Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) level classified information.

  • #120943

    Roslyn Brown

    In the intelligence community we used to say OBE, as in overcome by events. Does anyone else use this?

  • #120941

    Hans Hinners

    I had wanted to do a podcast on ‘How to speak Government-ese” as a blatant and willful rip off of the The Signal’s podcast, “How to speak (swear in) Chinese”. I decided I’d rather attempt having a life. #browncoat

  • #120939

    Charles Starkey

    I heard part of that interview too, Heather, and frankly I was disappointed with the content and nature of it. SCIF’s are not new, certainly not in the DC area, so it was kind of surprising to hear them talk about it as if this was some new revelation. No, people completely outside the Intel Community (IC) might not be familiar, but shouldn’t really be surprised. Also the idea that some very senior leaders might have a SCIF at their residence, and other secure resources; shouldn’t be surprising either, has existed for many, many years. In general I just thought the interview was bad, showed a lack of understanding of DC/gov’t culture. Heck, it came many months after the Top Secret Washington series in the Wash Post, which revealed to many folks some of the inner workings and culture of the IC and Dept of Defense. And again for me, like the radio interview, I was more surprised that people didn’t know the info in that Wash Post series.

    End of rant, stepping off soap box now. 😉

  • #120937

    Tricia Adkins

    I have a 27 page document that consists solely of acronyms and I still see/hear acronyms that aren’t on the list. We need an acronym counter to tally how many acronyms are created in government every minute. Here are a couple of websites that I also use: http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/subjectareas/gov/docs_abbrev http://www.acronymfinder.com

  • #120935

    Harry Herbert

    To date the best one I have heard is LEC. When I was stationed in Norfolk, VA I was assigned to LEC.

    LEC is the abbreviation for Lantcom Elint Center, Which is the abbreviation for Atlantic Command Eletronic Intelligence Center

  • #120933

    Richard Wong

    In our agency, “OBE” is used as an adjective and a verb. 🙂 e.g., “That incoming letter is so OBE’d by now.”

  • #120931

    Roslyn Brown

    Yes, we used it as an adjective and a verb too. I was with ODNI before I retired.

  • #120929

    Steve Ressler

    Interesting – why was Elliot in the morning talking about it? What was the framework?

  • #120927

    Heather Rattmann

    He was interviewing Brad Meltzer and discussing his book, The Inner Circle.

  • #120925

    I do now. 🙂 And in working for the IRS, I do believe that acronym will catch on quite rapidly.

  • #120923

    Shawn Paterson

    Great-you needed an acronym for an acronym!

    We use LEC for Local Exchange Carrier (telecommunications).

  • #120921

    James Britton

    As can be seen by the responses so far, terms and acronyms vary dramatically from department to department or across business areas. The only constant is the sense that govies (itself a coined term) are probably too quick to create them and they can create problems when we are talking to clients or others.

    In meetings I have taken to interrupting when someone (usually from IT) starts reeling off acronyms when talking, holding up my hand and stating, “point of acronym?”; a play on “point of order”. While the immediate reaction is negative at being interrupted, they quickly get that they were not being understood and explain…then go on using other acronyms.

    The debate over jargon.acronyms/&c as efficient shorthand (shortspeak?) versus a mechanism for exclusion, self-aggrandisement or obfuscation goes on forever. I find the ones that bother me the most are those that make the idea under discussion more important than it really is. For example, “artefact” in information architecture. Are you referring to a document, what???? Too pretentious for my liking.

  • #120919

    While I have no objection to informal writing when used with judicious restraint, I do not believe that such language belongs in any communications to the public we serve. That includes jargon, acronyms and abbrevations exclusive to federal agencies, and new words, all of which would be confusing to many. I would also respectfully suggest that you review “The Plain Writing Act” signed by President Obama in 2010. You may find it at http://www.plainlanguage.gov.



  • #120917

    Roslyn Brown

    James … do you text at all, e.g., TTYL, OMG, LOL, etc? Acronyms are nothing new in government-speak or in everyday life.

  • #120915

    Roslyn Brown

    Well put!

  • #120913

    Roslyn Brown

    Tammi … I hope you enjoy working for the IRS. I spent 7.5 years of my federal career there and loved it!

  • #120911

    James Britton

    I agree, but they only work when all in on the communication know them (there are pages of stories about people, usually across generations, getting LOLspeak wrong). Too often there is the assumption that everyone gets a certain micro-language, when in fact, people are being left out.

    I argue hard for the acceptance of jargon/shortforms when the group is closed and homogenic. I’m not so supportive when the edges are wider and the crowd more diverse.

  • #120909


    Thank you for your response. To clarify, when texting friends, I do indeed employ the most commonly used abbreviations. However, I also know that these abbreviations would be unknown to many of my older workplace colleagues, especially those who are not Gen Xs, Ys, or millenilals. I myself am a baby boomer, but I have always strived to communicate with those younger than I, and so I happily adopt and use the language that works best with my friends and colleagues in those groups.

  • #120907

    Carol Davison

    Acronyns mean different things at different organiations so you may never accomplish your intention!

    try not to use them expect US and ASAP for this reason.

    Additionally when one does want to abbreviate in writing they should spell it out As Soon As Possible (ASAP) and then list in the abbreviation in open and parentheses if they will be used again in the same document.

  • #120905

    John Evans

    IRS has so many acronyms and special terms that we have to have access to a special glossary, as each division has lots of acronyms and terms that they use but are not familiar to employees in other divisions. I would estimate the list for all divisions combined would run to 30 pages or more.

  • #120903

    Jack Shipley

    Hmmmmm….slang that is printable I assume….lol.

  • #120901

    Terms I have heard in gov but not elsewhere:

    “Workaround” – when you can’t eliminate the red tape

    “Socialize” – the idea to get people comfortable with something new

    “Acronym Hell” – trying to read documents full of insider abbreviations

    And my all time favorites:




  • #120899

    Roslyn Brown

    (Smile) Yes, I remember all the acronyms from my IRS days! IRS, as an agency, is huge.

  • #120897

    Gary M. Morin

    And what about all the agencies that have been renamed, using the same initials or acronym, but based on the agency’s culture or reputation, e.g.,: NIH: Nerds in Heaven. I’m sure there are others out there, though not always positive or publishable.

  • #120895

    My kids refer to the IRS as the Eternal Revenue Service…

  • #120893


    These are not unique to my agency; but are probably rarely used by those outside some incarnation of the budget and finance community. Only including a few so as not to bore everyone 😉 :

    ATB = Across-the-Board (which in and of itself is generally shorthand for an across-the-board reduction or an across-the-board recission) [of funds]

    EOFY = End of Fiscal Year

    PB = President’s Budget

    ADA = Anti-Deficiency Act

  • #120891

    Roslyn Brown

    Interesting that in the “budget” world, ADA is an acronym for Anti-Deficiency Act. For those of us who are EEO practitioners, ADA is an acronym for Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • #120889


    Yeah; I remember being confused the first time I heard it used as well, actually 🙂 , as I was familiar w/ the use of ADA for Americans with Disabilities Act since it’s sometimes referenced in the newspaper, etc.

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