Slang is a fascinating aspect of human communication. It’s a sometimes funny, sometimes angry, sometimes exclusive extension of language. While formal English and grammar rarely changes, slang constantly gives us new and colorful terms while it pushes other words to the archive of obsolete.
Slang develops naturally, from our creative minds and a range of emotions. A slang word can be a term of endearment or an offensive jab. It can be kind or it can be facetious.
Slang also has cultural influences. America is a great melting pot where new ethnic and social influences constantly enter the mix. Much of our slang words spring from other languages. For example, glitch, klutz and spiel are of Yiddish origin. So, “If the roof measurement app doesn’t have a glitch, your digitally-aided sales spiel to the property owner should go very well. Just don’t send a klutz to get up on the roof to do the initial inspection!”
The Origins of Roofer Slang
Some linguistic experts believe the word slang itself has origins in Scandinavia from which came the word “sling,” as in to throw. The idea is that slang consists of expressions that are slung out to quickly and honestly convey a thought or idea.
Linguistic experts sometimes point to writings in cant— a special language used within a tight group. A community or clique can use cant language to cloak the meaning of what they say, making it hard for outsiders to understand it. A great example of such slang is “the thieves’ cant,” which originated in the 1500s. The thieves’ cant was published in pamphlets and used by playwrights of the time. It contained the vernacular of the criminal underworld. There were hundreds of slang words in the thieves’ cant, all of which have passed into obscurity, just as our modern slang words like groovy and rad now seem to be growing obsolete.
Probably the most comprehensive collection of English slang, with over 7 million entries, is housed in the Urban Dictionary.
A Collection of Offbeat Roofing Terms
Here is a collection of roofing terms that we think roofer’s might sling around the office or job site. Surely we’re overlooking some clever roofing terms, so please share your roofer slang in the comments section, below.
Set up a mailbox
This somewhat facetious roofing term refers to jobs that are taking way too long for one reason or another.
“Mike. It’s been 37 days. Either finish this job or set up a mailbox there.”
Get a phone number
This is whispered by someone who wants you to get off the phone!
“Yo, Roger… get a number, I need you over here, lickety-split!”
Get on the horn
This is sort of the opposite of “Get a number.” It means to call someone… quickly.
“Chuck, get on the horn to Gulfeagle. Tell ‘em we need another pallet of shingles.”
With roofers’ slang there are no unmentionables. A honey-hole is a port-o-let. Not exactly The Ritz, but when you gotta go you gotta go!
“We can get to that later, Freddie… Skylar is still in the honey-hole.”
This refers to an easy task or decision.
“Ma’am, I recommend you upgrade to the OC Berkshire Manchester Gray… It’s a no-brainer.”
A whisky stick is a level.
“Alex, hand me that whisky stick. By the way, why didn’t you just use iRoofing’s pitch detector to figure out that slope?”
New York screwdriver
“Having a little trouble there, Mac? Use your New York screwdriver to drive that last one in.”
Since we can’t use profanity in this article, let’s call this by its proper name – roofing mastic.
“Ah… Doug, it looks like you sat in some bear $#!+. That was pretty unfortunate, dude.”
A relationship with a close friend or coworker.
“What’s up with you and the new guy? Seems like a bromance to me. Please explain!”
Badges refer to stickers gracing one’s hard hat.
“If you stick any more badges on that helmet, Frank, you might fall right through the roof.”
“Trudy, please hand me that mud wrench so I can get the bottom of this downspout to fit here just right.”
An imaginary tool used to trick new workers.
“Hey, new guy… We’re running low on materials. Go grab a shingle stretcher from the truck.”
Someone pretending to be a skilled craftsman
“Our company cowboy just nailed his boot to the roof.”
Get ‘er done
To approach a project with vigor and efficiency.
“I know it’s 92 SQs and we only have a day to finish this job, but we’ll get ‘er done, right boys?”
Two and a blue
It means 2 paychecks and a layoff slip.
“After the huge subdivision project was completed, the boss handed me two and blue. Bummer!”
This always means to measure a roof without using the iRoofing app.
“Gary, the low-tech roofer, always had inaccurate estimates because he would just try to eyeball the roof dimensions.”
A food truck or lunch wagon.
“The roofing crew nearly starved to death when the roach coach arrived 2 hours later than usual.”
When someone forgets something or does something careless.
“Jesse must be older than he looks. The dude had a senior moment when he forgot to install flashing around this pipe vent.”
Cow peeing on a flat rock
A hard rain
“A cow’s peeing on a flat rock over here, so tell the crew not to bother coming to the job site today. We’ll resume when the weather clears.”
Someone who is not licensed.
“Argh! That job I thought we had in the bag went to some pirate who under bid us by $1,000.”