Can You Ace This Construction Worker Lingo Quiz?


By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Frisco / Image Source / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Out and about in everyday life, if you hang out in any space long enough, you're going to find that there's a specific kind of slang or jargon that gets used by everyone who's also a part of that world. From surfers to police officers to gamers to hospital workers and more, it's just the nature of people to do this. You come up with niche terms to describe specific things and also fun slang terms to break up the monotony of it all. It happens with leisure time activities, and it happens on job sites, no matter what the job is that you're doing. And in the world of construction, there's pretty much no end to the terms that get tossed out that probably mean absolutely nothing to the casual listener who's not versed in the lingo of the construction world.

If you've ever been on a job site and chewed the fat with some of the other workers, then you probably have a good idea of what some of their construction worker lingo is. If you want to see just how good you are, then you really need to get into this quiz and show off what you know.

This is what you call the basic installation phase during construction. What is it?

Many workers on a site have their own rough-in process during construction, but two major ones are electrical and plumbing. The process involves ensuring that pipes and wires and such are placed before walls are installed, for instance, so holes won't have to be cut in finished walls.


If you make a mistake on the job site, someone might call it this. What is it?

To a small degree, "biff" has actually expanded beyond the construction industry and is sometimes, though not super often, used in the rest of the world to denote a mistake. Typical usage might involve saying "I biffed it" when acknowledging a mistake.


Which of these terms means double-zeroes in land surveying?

If you're measuring some land and the number happens to end in zeroes, you'll let someone know that it's zeroes by using the term "balls." For instance, if your measurement is 5.00, then you'd just call it "5 balls."


Where might you go for lunch on the job site?

No one has nice names for food trucks in the construction industry, so maybe it's no surprise that "roach wagon" is a name for a food truck on a site. They're also sometimes called "gaggin' wagons."


Which of these terms is especially used by bricklayers?

If you're doing any brickwork, then there's a good chance you need to be using mortar as well. Just because bricklayers are the kind of people who like to keep things casual and fun, one of the more popular slang terms they'll use when talking mortar is "butter."


Which of these is another term for an industrial site?

"Brownfield" doesn't sound particularly glamorous, and for all intents and purposes, it's not. The word refers to basically any undeveloped plot of land or one that had been developed and is now abandoned but hasn't turned into green space or anything useful yet.


Sometimes you don't have time to grab a tape measure, so you do this instead. Do you know what it is?

"Eyeball" is a standard work term for people who are just trying to get an approximate measurement. You could measure something and find the precise length or weight, or you could just eyeball it and make an educated guess.


What do you call the device that will hold rebar in place?

If you've ever looked at cement work, like a concrete slab foundation or walls, you've probably seen rods of rebar embedded in it to make it stronger. How do you hold that rebar steady when you pour concrete? With a high chair!


Which of these terms refers to the restroom?

This may be the most unattractive euphemism ever, but it's standard in the industrial world. A portable toilet is often called a honey hole, and the truck that comes to empty a portable toilet is generally called a honey wagon. Gross? You bet!


Do you know which term is a playful dig at an older worker?

When your apprentice is older than you are or they have been an apprentice for a long time, you can call them an apprentisaurus. Works for anyone who may have grey hair and is fairly new on the job site. Doesn't happen often, but it may happen sometimes.


This tool will help you visualize the whole project schedule and all aspects of it. What's it called?

A Gantt chart is basically the organizational tool that shows the whole project — when different jobs are scheduled and how work will be prioritized. It keeps the workflow organized so you don't have overlapping and conflicting jobs scheduled at the same time.


Do you know what to call the fine, detailed woodwork on a job?

Millwork includes baseboard or cabinet molding, various kinds of trim and wall crowns, and any woodwork that is detailed and somewhat artistic. Millwork is wood that is precisely cut in a mill.


When you need some fire to get a bolt free, you call it what?

Sometimes a nut or a bolt is impossible to move with a real wrench. In that situation, you have to bust out the blowtorch to either loosen it up or just cut it right off — and that's a hot wrench.


Any work not completed on a job will be detailed in this document. What is it?

A punch list, sometimes called an inspection list, is prepared by the owner or manager of the project being constructed. It will detail any work that either wasn't completed or doesn't conform to what was specified in the contract.


Which of these is a fee charged after a job is done?

If a subcontractor messed something up that the general contractor needs to finish or repair, they will back charge the subcontractor for the cost to get it fixed. Ideally, you want to avoid this.


Do you know which one of these is an architectural diagram?

Your plot plan or site plan is the overhead view of an entire site. This includes not just the building, as it also details any relevant utility lines, easements and even roads that will access the site.


When you're worried about the air and heat, you need someone who can do this kind of work. What is it?

An HVAC specialist is the person who can handle the heating, ventilation and air conditioning in a building. Basically, any kind of air in the building is managed by HVAC in some way.


Which of these is a joke term for a larger hammer?

Sure, you could just call a hammer a hammer, but you can also call it a New York screwdriver to add a little bit of humor to your work. There's a good chance no one is calling it a New York screwdriver in New York.


This is another name for a level. Do you know what it is?

Although you can get a number of different kinds of levels, the standard, old-school bubble level that many people still use is sometimes called a whiskey stick because that bubble is floating around in alcohol. That's to prevent freezing.


What's another name for a shovel?

If you're not having fun on the worksite, you're not working right. You could call a shovel just a shovel, or, in the spirit of fun, you could call it a manual backhoe, which is a cleverly convoluted way to explain what a shovel is.


Which of these will help you shut off the power in a building?

Disco is the simple abbreviation for the disconnect switch for a building. If you've ever seen that big grey box with a large black switch on the side in a basement or some such, that's the disconnect switch.


Do you know what you call a flat concrete foundation?

Before you put a floor in place, you want a subfloor. Before you put a subfloor in place you need to have the slab down. The slab is literally just a flat concrete base on which everything else will be built.


Which one of these is a joke that you'd ask the new guy on the site to grab for you?

The joke here comes when you say it out loud and think about it for a second. The boss asks the new guy to go grab the hammerfor. New guy says, "What's a hammerfor?" We all laugh because the new guy doesn't know what a hammer is for.


This is another name for some linesman's pliers. What is it?

An electrician obviously has a different set of tools, in general, than other workers on a construction site, and one thing they don't always have handy is a hammer. But they do have linesman's pliers that can be used for dang near anything, including being an electrician's hammer.


What do you do to a battery when it's dead?

When you're recharging a dead battery or anything else that can be recharged, you can tell someone you're juicing a brick. "Brick" pops up in everyday slang sometimes too, most popularly when your cell phone locks right up on you.


What do you call the amount of time a job can reasonably be delayed?

Slack time is a factor in any job. It covers the amount of time any construction work can be delayed on a job without impacting any of the other jobs that need to be done or affecting the whole project deadline.


You need to include this in your contract negotiations. What is it?

NTE stands for "not to exceed," and it's a number you need to include in your contract, though it can change as things progress. In general, it means that the cost of a build is not to exceed that number, and if it does, then the contractor is responsible for the amount in excess.


Which of these terms covers the turning of an iron beam?

When you're working the high steel, you need to move a lot of massive steel beams on cranes — something you've no doubt seen in movies and even cartoons. When you spin that beam 180 degrees, that's a do-si-do.


What do you call the flat, stable surface onto which you can lay down all kinds of things?

In general, you don't want to lay down any floor, whether it's laminate tiles, some kind of hardwood or anything else, until you get your flat and level subfloor down first. A good plywood subfloor ensures you're level and gives a good surface onto which you can secure the real floor.


This term deals with a budgetary difference. What is it?

Your contract overrun, which in some cases can also be an underrun, is the difference between the initial cost of work as laid out in the contract and what the final price of all the work turned out to be. An overrun is not good news for the person paying the bills.


Do you know which of these is another name for a foreman?

It's not super hard to figure out why a foreman is also called a pusher, because it's their job to push you to work. A toolpusher is a foreman on an oil drilling site, and the term is fairly widely used in that field.


This term is exclusively for crane operators. What is it?

"Two-block" is meant as an insult for a crane operator who biffs in a specific way. When the crane has hooked its own boom because the operator wasn't paying attention or just messed up in general, that's a two-block.


Do you know which term is used to criticize a lack of foresight in how some buildings are made?

"Peter Pan housing" isn't a kind term in the construction industry. It's used to criticize a home that was designed without taking into account the needs of elderly people. Problematic features may include laundry facilities in the basement, slippery bathrooms and narrow hallways.


You might use this term if you've had an accident. What is it?

"Yard sale" is a good catch-all term for that moment when you mess up and dump your toolbox on the ground. Essentially it covers any kind of scattered mess which leaves all your stuff looking like it's laid out on sale.


Which of these is the term for a cash payment that will ensure future work?

A bid bond has a lot in common with a bail bond, in the sense that it's a sum of money meant to guarantee something is going to happen in the future. In this case, a contractor's bid bond is a payment that guarantees they'll do the work if they win the bid on a contract.


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