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What They Say and What They Really Mean: A Primer

As most of my readers know by now, I’ve been put on this Earth to help. It’s just pure coincidence that you’re here at the same time. Imagine the odds. So you really should get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars and then send me cash in a brown paper bags—20s and 50s are fine. Now, for today and for your edification, I bring you a contractor’s guide to What They Say ……. And What They Really Mean.

“We have a problem.” = “We have a small change order for you.”

“We have a situation.” = “We have a large change order for you.”

“We have a serious situation.” = “We’re all screwed. Let’s hit the bar.”

“We need to ‘value engineer’ the project.” = “My original budget was way too low. Save me. Please.”

“The water table was a bit higher than indicated in the borings.” = “There’s 6 ½ feet of water in the basement.”

“I’ll be tied up all afternoon.” = “I’m doing 18 holes this afternoon.”

“The report said the soil bearing capacity was 2,500 psi, but now it looks more like 2,000 psi.” = “The footings are sinking to the center of the Earth.”

“I must not be making myself clear.” = “You’re stupid.”

“It’s really very simple …” = “You’re very stupid.”

“Oh, and that’s plus shipping of course.” = “Ka-Ching!!!!”

“This quote is good for the next 30 days.” = “We’ve calculated that there’s no way you’re ever going to get this whole mess together in a month so we’ve built in an ‘out’ if we need one.”

“The difference between our company and our competitors is our special attention to detail, our quality workmanship, and our personal, goal-oriented service to our customers.” = “We can’t think of a single difference between us and our competitors.”

“And of course we can provide references upon request.” = “If you continue to press it, we can hastily type up a bunch of letters on different colored letterhead and scramble to get them signed by everybody who owes us a favor for borrowing our refrigerator dolly.”

“I like your new secretary. She’s conscientious and seems like a real go-getter.” = “Wow, she’s hot!”

“And we offer a full one-year warranty on all material and labor.” = “We like our odds.”

“Let me check your last proposal with us.” = “Let me check to see if you paid us last time.”

“We’ll have to research that and get back to you.” = “We have no clue.”

“Could you confirm that to me in an e-mail?” = “I have the attention span of a mosquito.”

“Well, what do you think?” = “I have no idea what to do.”

“I’ll jump on the Internet this afternoon and research that.” = “I’m gonna play slots online this afternoon.”

“I haven’t had the chance to work up a breakdown yet.” = “My idiot boss stuck me with this loser project at the very last second and I haven’t opened the file yet.”

“Well, it was referred to in the addenda.” = “You’re responsible even though I forgot to tell you about it.”

“Here, I’m gonna be honest with you.” = “I’m about to lie to you.”

“Here, let’s take this meeting out of the trailer and go walk the site.” = “I had a bean burrito for lunch.”

(Boss handing you back a proposal) “Looks good.” = “I didn’t have time to read it.”

“Today’s bad for me but … .” = “I don’t feel like putting up with you today but … .”

“We’ll discuss it after the meeting.” = “I cannot believe you just brought that up in front of everybody!”

“We’ll monitor the situation.” = “If we ignore it and wait long enough, maybe it’ll just go away by itself.”

“I’ll be networking with clients this afternoon.” = “They have these great little wieners in barbeque sauce at O’Toole’s happy hour.”

“I’ve got good news and bad news.” = “I’ve got bad news.”

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