Watch where you wield acronyms, you might hurt somebody.
In the early 1960s, Marvin C. "Red" Bell was manning the midnight-to-morning shift as a "testboard man" for one of the large phone companies.
During one shift, around 2 am, every system in the entire Southeastern United States started calling in for automated processes.
"I started grabbing every line that I could to keep something going," Red recalled. "In five minutes I had called nearly everyone who was on the callout list. I asked them to do what they could and ended the message with the standard 'KMA,' Keep Me Advised."
Red and his colleagues had developed a number of acronyms to speed up communication in times of emergency. Times like this.
Shortly after issuing his "KMA" communiquÉ, Red received a callout from the Ultimate Authority Status Board in White Plains, N.Y. He shared all relevant information and speculations with the UASB. He even listed the callout crews he had spoken to. UASB engineers held on the phone line to provide Red any information he might have needed.
"About a half-hour into the mess, one of the Status Board engineers said they received a call that I had cursed a person out, and could I explain why," Red said. "I was in the dark until I mentioned that I had asked all of the people I called to KMA."
It turned out that one of the new hires wasn't familiar with the jargon and whale speak and thought KMA meant 'Kiss My A**.'
"It was a great tension breaker," Red says.
The next evening, Red called the offended person and apologized for having hurt his feelings. Red went on to explain the buzz phrases that he should know, to better get along on the job.
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