Jury Rigging Engines-And Language

I’m no George Carlin, but have you noticed that men, probably due to their hormonal composition, seem to resolve most problems with a hammer? “Flippin’ nail is sticking up a tad; gimme that claw hammer!” “Starter’s just spinning, not engaging; gimme the 12-ounce ball-peen.” “But dad, right on the starter it says ‘Do not strike with hard object.’” “Don’t worry, son, I’ll just give it a little love tap.”

“Tony the Tuna is getting just a little close to finding our stash. I think he needs disappearing.” (That’s past pluperfect subjunctive, I think.)

Actually, some things are best, and only, resolved with hammers. A few years ago, I told you about the long-term loan of my father’s tiny ball-peen hammer to a customer so he could save some bucks by tapping a carb bowl to realign a stuck float needle rather than buy a new carburetor. (Caveat: Do not try this at home!) With the money he saved, he and his wife took a luxury cruise (not inviting The Nurse and me as their guests), during which time they were in a big storm in the Atlantic. The following day, Sam asked the chief engineer how the ship had fared. The chief allowed as one engine had problems, but “the guys” were working on it. Sam suggested he do what Sam’s mechanic told him to do: hit it with a hammer. Sam said it worked every time. The chief just walked away.

The other day I’m telling Sam’s story to a friend who was way up in the hierarchy of an airline that was bought, sold, mortgaged, leveraged, then got disappeared (see definition above). Pete then filled me in on the early Boeing jets that used compressed air to start the engines. A valve — apparently looking much like a car-engine’s valve — would stick open and allow the air to escape, and a non-start situation ensued. One enterprising young man discovered that if he tapped the top of the valve with a leather hammer, it sprung closed and the engine was able to start. But still a problem! How to write what he did to cure the problem? Whacking a $7 million engine with a maul hardly seemed the basis for job security. The wonderful English language to the rescue: the mechanic “malletized” the valve.

Don’t you just love it? A story from 50 years ago has given service writers a word that’s worth an additional $20/hour labor rate, and you a word to look for on the RO as the cure for your inoperative dash gauges.

Let me know the words like “malletize” you’ve encountered. There’s Webster’s and Funk & Wagnall’s for the literary world. Why not a “Michal’s” for the guys who keep folks boating?