Microspeak: Sit in it!


The title of this entry is a bad pun on a catchphrase from 1970s television. I apologize to those for whom the 1970s are a bad memory.

A snippet of Microspeak that bothers me is the verb phrase "to sit in".

Example: "I'm in the Nosebleed group which sits in Bob Smith's organization."

I think it means "to be a part of" but I'm not quite sure. Maybe it just means that they're there temporarily until they can find a more permanent "seating assignment."

Comments (14)
  1. Bob says:

    It’s not just Microspeak, unfortunately. There are large federal contractors which use that construct without restriction or remorse.

    "Where does he sit?" (tr. "Where’s his office?")

    "[Mike] sits in the office next to mine; say hello some time."

    Another one that bugs me is "on travel," presumably derived from "on vacation." "I am on travel this week and will not be answering emails. Talk to Connie Dobbs, x5555, if you need assistance."

  2. PizzaEFichi says:

    In Italian (and maybe other Latin derived languages) it’s not a thing of the 70’s.

    "Residenza" (the place where one lives), "Residente" (one living in a given place),

    "Residenziale" (a zone where people lives) and "Residere" (a rarely used verb which means living in a given place) all derive from "Sedere" (which means "to sit" among other non inherent meanings) and "Re" which is a prefix for "again".

    I think "Residential" is english derived from the same root (and probably many other english words I don’t know of).

  3. Jesse says:

    Funny, just seeing the word "sit" and "nosebleed" in the same sentance made my brain think it must be talking about a sporting event.  I had to read the sentance 3 times before it started making sense.

  4. josh says:

    Bob’s "sit ins" seem to have a very literal interpretation.  People DO sit down in their offices, right?

    Speaking of the sitting location of an entire group is a bit more odd, especially if it’s not a physical location.

  5. Mack says:

    Maybe "sits in" is just a way of saying "is sited in"?

  6. JamesNT says:

    This is an excellent example of why the English language is so popular.  It is so easy to abuse takes that abuse so well.  It reminds me of a hidden Windows dialog…

    http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2006/01/10/511201.aspx

    JamesNT

  7. Caliban Darklock says:

    I’ve always seen this as potentially meaning three things.

    1. The Nosebleed group is A PART OF Bob Smith’s organisation. When Bob Smith has a meeting, we sit in it.
    2. The Nosebleed group is HEIRARCHICALLY CONTAINED BY Bob Smith’s organisation. If you trace the chain of command from me up through my manager and beyond, you eventually reach Bob Smith. We do not actively collaborate with Bob Smith, it is simply an organisational detail.

    3. The Nosebleed group has SPACE OFFICIALLY ASSIGNED TO Bob Smith’s organisation. We literally sit in offices that are listed as belonging to Bob Smith’s organisation, but we do not actively collaborate with Bob Smith and he has no authority over the activity of our group.

    There’s no way to know which is intended except through context.

  8. CB says:

    Very popular at my company is "… Ziggy, our new marketing guru, will report in to BigBoss…"

    Why "report in to", when "report to" seems more natural?

  9. mikeb says:

    My assumption is that "sits in" is using the "is located or situated in" sense of the word sit.

    When I hear someone say "the Nosebleed group sits in Bob Smith’s organization", I take it to mean that the Nosebleed group is located in Bob Smith’s organization (on the org chart).

    Now I’ve found that sit is one of those words that starts looking strange when I see or use it too much in one sitting…

  10. Ilya Birman says:

    In Russian it is just the way you say it.

    Even better, when you talk about someone’s being in a hospital, you say: “He LIES in a hospital”. Or, if you know he’s in a hospital but don’t know in which exactly, you can ask: “Where does he lie?” Notice, that this does not mean that “he” literally is lying, horizontally, at the moment of speaking.

    When you hear “Where does he sit?”, it could well be a non-english-speaker in whose language this is a normal way of saying things.

  11. John Webber says:

    German tends to use the verbs for "stand" and "lie" frequently where English doesn’t bother. For example: "The book is on the table." German "Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch" =  "The book is lying on the table. It’s not wrong to say "Das Buch ist auf dem Tisch" (the book is on the table), but I think most Germans would use the first version.

  12. Marc Bernard says:

    It’s certainly better than "where’s he at?"

  13. John says:

    Does it say something about me (like, that I work for one of the aforementioned federal contractors) that "where’s he sit?", "on travel", etc. are perfectly natural for me?

    Not to mention the military-derived usage "he’s TDY this week" (TDY being a military shortening for Temporary Duty – i.e. on travel). I gave up and started using that one this month…

  14. bago says:

    Story seems to be the new meme. What’s your story?

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