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The 69 Words GM Employees Can Never Say

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the ok-and-you-can't-say-that-number-either dept.

Bug 373

bizwriter (1064470) writes "General Motors put together its take on a George Carlin list of words you can't say. Engineering employees were shown 69 words and phrases that were not to be used in emails, presentations, or memos. They include: defect, defective, safety, safety related, dangerous, bad, and critical. You know, words that the average person, in the context of the millions of cars that GM has recalled, might understand as indicative of underlying problems at the company. Oh, terribly sorry, 'problem' was on the list as well."

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Corporate speak (5, Funny)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 3 months ago | (#47045857)

Of course they don't need to use any of those words. Everyone knows GM vehicles are doubleplusgood!

So how to report an actual problem? (5, Funny)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#47046053)

Rejoice! The fuel tank exhibits a delightful ability to consistently emit large cheerful conflations of thermal exuberance in response to mild percussive excitation. We recommend modifying the roof-rack to double as a full-length barbeque grill to maximize the occupants appreciation of this fortuitous feature.

Re:So how to report an actual problem? (4, Interesting)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 3 months ago | (#47046407)

That's about the best MBA-speak I've ever seen.

Re:Corporate speak (4, Informative)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 3 months ago | (#47046065)

Actually, avoiding certain words makes sense if those words bolster a legal case against GM, as a partial admission of guilt. Same reason your side mirrors still bear that stupid warning about objects being closer than they appear. Fix your silly legal system that allows anyone to sue anyone over anything, and if their case has any merit, gives them a chance to win the damages or out of court settlement lottery.

Our own legal system mostly awards actual damages (which can still be quite high in injury suits), and orders only small awards for stuff like "mental anguish". Moreover, we do not have the notion of punitive damages, instead companies can be fined, with the proceeds going to the state, the object being to punish, not arbitrarily reward a wronged party.

Re:Corporate speak (4, Insightful)

JazzLad (935151) | about 3 months ago | (#47046137)

That's ok, here most of the moneys go to the lawyers anyway.

Re:Corporate speak (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046369)

Our legal system isn't "silly". It's based on a different set of beliefs about the relationship between the individual and the State than yours is. You're able to have "faith" in your State because your population is most likely more homogeneous than that of the USA -- just like most people in the USA have more faith in their state governments than they have in their national government.

"Avoiding certain words", DOESN'T make sense, because it is STRONG internal evidence that you've got a MAJOR issue you're ignoring. If you have to start "circling the wagons" to keep engineers from SPEAKING THE TRUTH, then you should have been dealing SIGNIFICANTLY more aggressively with the problems. This is a major management failure at GM, and every middle manager that had ANYTHING to do with the cover-up should be summarily dismissed and made an example of.

Re:Corporate speak (2)

countach (534280) | about 3 months ago | (#47046373)

Yes, as Orwell observed, if you remove the vocabulary necessary to commit thought-crime, then thought-crime becomes impossible. In this case GM doesn't want to be convicted of actual crime.

Note to myself: (4, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 3 months ago | (#47045865)

Never buy a car from GM. A company that practices this type of policy can not have my confidence in any way.

Re:Note to myself: (1, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47045925)

Be careful about over-wide proscriptions - walking is good for you, but a bit limiting.

Re:Note to myself: (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 3 months ago | (#47046091)

Well .. As a curiosity, soon we will have so many cars on the streets that everyone will not be able to transit anymore, then will have to walk as I :-) (but do not worry, I understand your point)

Re:Note to myself: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046093)

Fortunately GM is not a monopolist.

Re:Note to myself: (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47046239)

If you've worked on GM cars, you know what he's talking about. They are mostly underbuilt and they are not built to be maintained, they have a severe love of rivets. They are also well-known for paint failure. The paint is one of the most important parts of the car, it protects the body which I am sure you will agree is a significant part itself.

The up side of GM is parts interchange, which is by far above the other domestics. They also have some fantastic engines. The down side is everything else.

Re:Note to myself: (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#47045929)

Never buy a car from GM. A company that practices this type of policy can not have my confidence in any way.

Got bad news for ya - they all practice this type of policy; GM just happens to be in the spotlight right now, and that's why you're hearing about their list of no-no words, rather than Ford's, or Chrysler's, or Toyota's, etc.

Re:Note to myself: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046195)

...rather than Ford's, or Chrysler's, or Toyota's, etc

Look out! Here come's an 's!!

Re:Note to myself: (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 3 months ago | (#47046299)

Ask Apple about it. They never have problems or bugs and seldom have 'issues'.

Re:Note to myself: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045985)

You don't want a car from a company that tries to refrain from ridiculous internet-like hyperbole and tries to focus on clearly and concisely discussing problems?

Granted, it's completely ineffective in the face of willful malfeasance, but the effort in itself is not wrong.

Re:Note to myself: (3, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 3 months ago | (#47046121)

Spoke a manager from GM :-). I prefer companies that are open about their problems than companies that try to hide problems with "disguised words".

Nice view from the cheap seats? (5, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about 3 months ago | (#47046355)

I prefer companies that are open about their problems than companies that try to hide problems with "disguised words".

Easy to say when you are not the one at the pointy end of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit. Lots of people have plenty of courage in a semi-anonymous internet post. While I agree with you in principle the way the laws are written it isn't nearly as simple as you or I think it should be. As much as I'd like to see engineers speaking freely about problems, the consequences of doing so can be catastrophic when they don't know what they are doing. And I don't know too many engineers who are up to date on their product liability law.

Fact is that NO lawyer worth his retainer would agree with you. The number of ways in which employees can get a company in serious financial trouble through even the most honest attempts to solve problems is HUGE. Employees can agree to contracts, "admit" to wrongdoing (even when there wasn't any), etc. There are VERY good reasons why companies tend to only let a few, carefully selected people who know what they are doing speak for the company. I've worked as an engineer at a large auto company and I had to get special permission to give a technical talk just due to the potential liability and trade secret issues involved.

Re:Note to myself: (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 3 months ago | (#47046207)

you used the word problems, you are fired!

Re:Note to myself: (5, Insightful)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 3 months ago | (#47046263)

Sure, "cataclysmic" doesn't belong in an engineering email, but "always", "never", "critical", "serious", "safety", "safety-related", "dangerous" and (best of all, IMO) "problem"? That isn't engineers avoiding hyperbole, that's lawyers avoiding the truth.

Re:Note to myself: (4, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 3 months ago | (#47046017)

Never buy a car from GM. A company that practices this type of policy can not have my confidence in any way.

All you know from TFA is that GM has a list. What you don't know is whether other automakers -- or manufacturers in general -- have similar lists. Given that all companies of any size have lawyers whose job it is to reduce potential legal liability, I'd have to assume that GM is not alone in having such a policy.

Of course you do. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046149)

Even tiny, sub-20 person companies have shit they do not talk about via e-mail. Unless you're an idiot, you're well aware of the consequences of living in a society where written records are potentially durable forever.

Anyway, GP - if you want a real reason not to buy GM, go with Government Motors. Funny how there were car manufacturers who didn't need taxpayer funds to bail them out.

And before the loonies start in - I don't care what was paid back with what profit. "Too big to fail"? Same bullshit used to give our money to the banks. And it needs to stop. The very concept of 'too big to fail' needs to be dragged out into the public square and shot. What happens when, say, Comcast is 'too big to fail'?

Re:Of course you do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046253)

The very concept of 'too big to fail' needs to be dragged out into the public square and shot.

Also, get rid of too big to jail [rollingstone.com] while you're at it.

Re:Note to myself: (2)

PPH (736903) | about 3 months ago | (#47046329)

This is a good point. Although I think publishing an (internal) list is a pretty simplistic way of dealing with this.

When I worked in the engineering department at Boeing, we were expected to write all of our memos clearly and concisely, using proper technical terminology, avoiding hyperbole and lots of adjectives. And to confine our writing to our area of expertise. For example, we could write that such-and-such an event could lead to the failure of some critical function or component. We would not write that the result would be an airplane crash. Because even if the tail falls off the airplane, ... I mean the empennage departs the airframe, a skilled pilot may still be able to land sucessfully.

Re:Note to myself: (0)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47046033)

Not to worry, no one buys GM cars, except by accident anyways.

Re:Note to myself: (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#47046047)

You also get the benefit from protecting yourself from the worst made cars in the USA. GM made = designed to fall apart after 5 years.

Re:Note to myself: (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 3 months ago | (#47046059)

The only thing cheaper than the pathetic moron that said, "ya, this is good idea, do it." And then emailed it to the new CEO is the parser that will run against the emails with the phrases reversed back.

This would be a interesting application using AIML. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Note to myself: (1)

Timothy Hartman (2905293) | about 3 months ago | (#47046067)

I'd personally feel comforted if someone referred to the auto I was in an accident in as a "rolling sarcophagus". We need more frank honestly like this which could be potentially damning in courts. I'm sure KIA refers jokingly to their cars as Killed in Action when presented with queries about their safety. When Ford employees refer to their vehicles as rolling death boxes I'm sure whoever uses that terminology gets super not fired too.

Re:Note to myself: (1)

kick6 (1081615) | about 3 months ago | (#47046181)

Never buy a car from GM. A company that practices this type of policy can not have my confidence in any way.

So all of them. Hope you work from home!

Re:Note to governments: (2)

HnT (306652) | about 3 months ago | (#47046325)

Do not bail out GM and its subsidiaries and daughter companies like a chump like the German government did for Opel. You will get screwed in the worst possible way and GM will still close shop and move east the second they don't need your free guarantees anymore.

Re:Note to myself: (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about 3 months ago | (#47046345)

A company that practices this type of policy can not have my confidence in any way.

Good luck being Amish.

The person who made the ppt was immediately fired (5, Funny)

barlevg (2111272) | about 3 months ago | (#47045873)

For using all 69 words. No exceptions, right?

Re:The person who made the ppt was immediately fir (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 3 months ago | (#47046045)

For using all 69 words. No exceptions, right?

Obviously there are exceptions. "Quality and Safety" is one of the top level links on GM's website. And "Ignition Recall" is right there on the front page.

Re:The person who made the ppt was immediately fir (4, Funny)

NonUniqueNickname (1459477) | about 3 months ago | (#47046327)

Someone complained and HR agreed that he intentionally stopped short of making the list an even 70. Fired for sexual harassment.

copy-pasta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045881)

always, annihilate, apocalyptic, asphyxiating, bad, Band-Aid, big time, brakes like an “X” car, cataclysmic, catastrophic, Challenger, chaotic, Cobain, condemns, Corvair-like, crippling, critical, dangerous, deathtrap, debilitating, decapitating, defect, defective, detonate, disemboweling, enfeebling, evil, eviscerated, explode, failed, flawed, genocide, ghastly, grenadelike, grisly, gruesome, Hindenburg, Hobbling, Horrific, impaling, inferno, Kevorkianesque, lacerating, life-threatening, maiming, malicious, mangling, maniacal, mutilating, never, potentially-disfiguring, powder keg, problem, rolling sarcophagus (tomb or coffin), safety, safety related, serious, spontaneous combustion, startling, suffocating, suicidal, terrifying, Titanic, unstable, widow-maker, words or phrases with a biblical connotation, you’re toast

Re:copy-pasta (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 3 months ago | (#47046245)

They left off exsanguinating.

copy-pasta (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046323)

You can't use "always"?

"We should usually make cars with working brakes."

You can't use "never"?

"We should rarely make cars that spontaneously combust."

You can't use "problem"?

"Our cars come with many opportunities for repair."

Doubleplusgood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045883)

Hail corporate for they are the giver of life and the rightful rulers of the land. Us worker serfs should be grateful for the words our corporate lords still let us use.

Re:Doubleplusgood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046167)

Your mom called. She said she just got some more Hot Pockets, so you can go ahead and go home and stop leeching mine. kthxbye.

words (5, Funny)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#47045903)

I like how the article explains to us the meaning behind the words Hindenburg and Titanic.

You know just in case we couldn't picture an engineer likening the powder keg of a rolling sarcophagus spontansously combusting in an apocalyptic grenadelike explosion, mangling and impaling the hapless ocupants like Curt Cobain flying the Challenger into the Hindenburg.

On the plus side you could use the result to cook you're toast at the end of it all.

Re:words (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47045937)

I'd hire you as my technical writer anytime!

Re:words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045951)

I like how the article explains to us the meaning behind the words Hindenburg and Titanic.

I wouldn't be surprised if some folks don't know the story behind these words. I mean some folks don't know the difference between "your" and "you're".

On the plus side you could use the result to cook you're toast at the end of it all.

Re:words (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | about 3 months ago | (#47046251)

I like how the article explains to us the meaning behind the words Hindenburg and Titanic.

I wouldn't be surprised if some folks don't know the story behind these words. I mean some folks don't know the difference between "your" and "you're".

On the plus side you could use the result to cook you're toast at the end of it all.

If you're inside the car then you ARE toast at the end of it all.

Re:words (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 3 months ago | (#47046117)

What?! No reference to WKRP?! [youtube.com]

Re:words (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 3 months ago | (#47046391)

Ha! Classic.

Is this the first reference to "Film at 11" at 2:10 ?

Could be worse. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045905)

Unlike Tesla, at least they actually acknowledge their faults these days. Shame that they don't use open language to do so, but modern business is 80% psychology and 20% product.

Re:Could be worse. (1)

hsmith (818216) | about 3 months ago | (#47045921)

Could be worse? How many people died in fires from Tesla? GM covered this up for years. Their solution? Fire two engineers - no one in management who acted like it wasn't an issue.

Re:Could be worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046085)

How many fire-related deaths per mile travelled in an urban car of similar age, please?

Re:Could be worse. (0)

rioki (1328185) | about 3 months ago | (#47045927)

... said Anonymous "GM PR Guy" Coward.

Re:Could be worse. (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#47045959)

Unlike Tesla, at least they actually acknowledge their faults these days. Shame that they don't use open language to do so, but modern business is 80% psychology and 20% product.

To be fair, Tesla might not acknowledge their faults, but unlike GM, they act proactively and fix them before somebody gets killed.

Re:Could be worse. (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 3 months ago | (#47046155)

at least they actually acknowledge their faults these days.

Only because the government is in the process of issuing fines to GM and a host of lawsuits are soon to hit for all the untimely deaths caused by the various design issues they have been forced to recall.

Everybody needs to understand exactly WHAT this is. This is a lawyer sitting in his office who realizes that as soon as he gets hit by a discovery notice, he's going to have to turn over electronic copies of E-mails, documents and such that might have something to do with a lawsuit. He's trying to make the real evidence hard to find, hard to explain and avoid the appearance of having a "smoking gun" E-mail or document that can be easily found using a text search. This is all about obfuscation.

But GM is FAR from the only company that does this.. I've worked at a few companies that had some interesting rules about stuff like this. I worked at one place where the document retention policy was *obviously* geared towards the company getting sued. Keeping something for more than a quarter required manager approvals and justification. It was just plain stupid and hard to work with so we generally ignored it. I found out why though at a later date. Apparently the CFO was doing some "shady" (or outright illegal by SEC standards) practices and was trying to cover his tracks.

Could be worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046341)

They are even allowed to use the word "faults"!

Dear Sirs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045909)

I am very critical of the dangerous safety-related defects.

omitted from the list, but relevant (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 3 months ago | (#47045911)

Two more words,

"We're Sorry."

Re:omitted from the list, but relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045963)

two words not on the list as well.

Fuck. you.

Re:omitted from the list, but relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046183)

Sorry.... *in the south park way*

Re:omitted from the list, but relevant (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about 3 months ago | (#47046389)

Two more words, "We're Sorry."

Saying that is like handing signed blank checks to a host of personal injury lawyers. Especially for a company like GM which is seen as HUGE money pit. So the corporate lawyer reviewing the public statement is going to have kittens if the PR department tried something like this.

List in full: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045943)

Them words in full: http://i.imgur.com/4VaHgh1.jpg?1

When you gag the enginers ... (5, Insightful)

johnjaydk (584895) | about 3 months ago | (#47045945)

You get a Challenger disaster.

In my experience, You have to use exactly these words in order to get management to take problems serious. Turns out it was because they put management in a legal bind.

Any engineer who follows GM's edict should be flogged. Bad stuff happens because good men do nothing.

Re:When you gag the enginers ... (2)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 3 months ago | (#47046029)

You have to use exactly these words in order to get management to take problems serious.

Actually, you have to use words like "liability", "class-action lawsuit", "company stock price drops like a rock", etc.

At least when you're dealing with real managers, and not pretend ones that used to be engineers at some point.

Re:When you gag the enginers ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046275)

The class-action lawsuit won't get anywhere unless it can be demonstrated that management was aware of the problem - for example, by hearing the words "defective", "unsafe", or "fatal explosion" from the engineers. So if they simply prevent the engineers from using those words, they're fine!

Re:When you gag the enginers ... (1)

eth1 (94901) | about 3 months ago | (#47046335)

Yeah... note to self: All the good engineers are going to leave, so all of GM's future cars are probably going to be well-described by all the forbidden words.

Re:When you gag the enginers ... (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 months ago | (#47046339)

Playing devils advocate here

However the engineer, is often overly cautious, to the extreme, and sometimes have a fit if they don't get there way, and having engineers over exaggerating to get their point across isn't unheard of.

The words seem to be "Power Words" terms that get people to agree without only on an emotional basis. So an engineer can use them to get his way, without really backing himself up. And if his idea gets rejected and the media gets their hands on the email, there is a huge PR problem, where the email is taken out of contexts.

Lets just say this discussion was about the vanity mirror, the engineer wants it to be bolted on, vs. a plastic clip. His design is superior because the bolts will last longer. However other engineers find the plastic clip is good enough, and looks better. The engineer who proposes the bolts may fill a bit annoyed that they went with an other design. So he may complain to protest his point, and over emphasize the risks of the plastic clips, and toss in a few of those power words. To try to get his way. Then a few years down the line, there is an unrelated problem with the car, and there is a law suit. They find emails from an engineer discussing doom and gloom. Now the media will have a field day with that. Even though it was unrelated.

They forgot the obvious two (0)

Begemot (38841) | about 3 months ago | (#47045967)

Dingleberries and pussy farts

Why bother? (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | about 3 months ago | (#47045973)

The NSA will be recording their voice conversations anyway. But seriously, this is a joke, right? If not, it's instant "Hall of shame" material, and my cynicism reaches a new height.

Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47045991)

Clusterfuck isn't on the list.

Not that irrational (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046005)

It's a natural consequence of the general public (slashdotters included) being morons and cherrypicking single words (not sentences, words) and basing all their decisions on those words. That's how you elect politicians whose only ability is being able to talk for three hours without actually saying anything.

Re:Not that irrational (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47046073)

It's a natural consequence of the general public (slashdotters included) being morons and cherrypicking single words (not sentences, words) and basing all their decisions on those words. That's how you elect politicians whose only ability is being able to talk for three hours without actually saying anything.

Exactly. I'm sure political speech writers have similar lists, and good technical writing guides will tell you to stay away from subjective modifiers and phrases.

Hey, no problem! (1)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about 3 months ago | (#47046021)

Just say, "this may have negative marketing implications", and corporate will have the recall in effect by lunchtime.

It's not a death-trap (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 3 months ago | (#47046031)

It's a survival-challenging vehicle!

69 words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046041)

Guess you're F**ked if you use any of them

Obligatory Fight Club... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046055)

A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

How could they enforce this? (1)

blackwizard (62282) | about 3 months ago | (#47046071)

I'm thinking something like a pre-commit hook, only integrated into Microsoft Office. ;-)

Re:How could they enforce this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046159)

They don't need real-time enforcement. If and when an instance gets back to them they just fire people immediately. With at-will employment, their lawyers will justify it later with legalese.

Common sense in email (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 3 months ago | (#47046079)

Just common sense. You don't write anything in an email that could be used as evidence against the company in a court case. Everything you write can and will be used against the company in a court case, no matter how much it has to be taken out of context. Much easier to just avoid some words.

If you know that writing "the car has a defect" can cost the company millions, while writing "the car has a condition" has the same meaning, and your fellow engineers know it has the same meaning, why would you want to write "the car has a defect"?

Re:Common sense in email (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046229)

We use different words to convey degree.

Defect sounds like it needs replacement or augmentation, whereas condition suggests that an over-the-counter ointment may be sufficient.

Ignition related issue? Try refilling the windshield wiper fluid. In court, they can say "we said 'try', we did not say this would address a specific 'condition'."

Re:Common sense in email (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 3 months ago | (#47046255)

Trying to hide a serious problem that can cause deaths is even worse for the image of the company to admit that it has a product problems. It is high time to send these managers to hell and start doing things right for a change.

Corporate Culture Sucks at GM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046095)

A corporate culture that does not promote transparency and honesty is set to fail by internal struggles and miscommunication. This policy of censoring words is both ethically and morally bankrupt and might delayed solving problems before they snowball into deaths.

The GM board of directors needs to intervene in this matter as many investors will lose confidence by this news.

'problem' was on the list as well (2)

l3v1 (787564) | about 3 months ago | (#47046103)

"'problem' was on the list as well"

Well, as everyone knows, there are no problems, only challenges :))

It's a joke (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046123)

You damn well know that before the slide was shown in the engineer's meeting, there was another meeting. At this other meeting, people were laughing. There was a slightly-upper manager holding a piece of chalk or a grease pencil or something, pointing it around, "who's got another one? Johnson?" Someone slapped their knee when they heard the absurdly stupid (yet that also makes it clever) "Kevorkianesque," and then someone else smugly rolled their eyes thinking their co-worker less witty than themselves when they heard "rolling sarcophagus." By the time they got to "grenade-like" the laughs had died down, not because it was so serious but because people people were straining too hard, thinking all the low-hanging fruit had been plucked. And let's face it, half the people there, were enjoying poking fun at their own company's products.

I bet you the engineers laughed too. A manager doesn't tell a bunch of people "don't refer to our product as a rolling sarcophagus" without getting a few chuckles.

And nobody tell me "this is no time for joking, real people got killed!" Hey, there's always a time for joking. People have been killed by the mob but you can still laugh when Tony Soprano's father said he had an albacore around his neck. People got killed in 9/11 but you know plenty of jokes about it. We laugh about some of our mistakes at my workplace and you do the same at yours. (And if you don't, then IMHO you are a problem.)

There's an underlying seriousness here, sure. They already knew records were eventually going to be subpoenaed and they didn't want people leaving "smoking guns" around ("See? Their own engineers call it a sarcophagus!") and that alone suggests some guilt. The intent behind the list is cause for concern. The list itself, though: that's just people having fun after getting a memo from legal.

unexplained fires are a matter for the courts (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 months ago | (#47046127)

Canyonero!

Bagel (1)

Len (89493) | about 3 months ago | (#47046135)

"There seems to be a bagel with the ignition switch that we should look into."

The emails and memos will still get written, and it's not like anyone will be fooled by the obtuse circumlocutions.

di3k (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046163)

propaga8da and TheY mobo blew

Thank Ralph Nader (3)

tomhath (637240) | about 3 months ago | (#47046165)

The list is just examples of words a lawyer will latch onto. For the same reason doctors are instructed to never say they're sorry for a less than perfect outcome; it can be presented to a jury that they admitted guilt - whether they intended it that way or not.

Challenges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046171)

Sounds like a Dilbert cartoon. Dilbert has to explain what the issue product X is having and has a list of words he can't use from the PHB.

Low power to education ratio (3, Interesting)

pefisher (774697) | about 3 months ago | (#47046173)

Sometimes it seems that engineers have the lowest power to education ratio of any profession in the US. Lawyers and bean counters seem to spend their days making sure that any good that might be done by engineers is preemptively neutralized.

Re:Low power to education ratio (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 3 months ago | (#47046413)

Exactly. Which is why I would never encourage my kids to go into engineering. It's not the 1960s anymore, we've squeezed all we can out of engineering and we're coasting back to the historical mean of how humans behave.

Poorly worded headline (3, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 3 months ago | (#47046215)

The summary goes so far as to tell us that it is Engineering employees who cannot use those words in specific types of communications. People outside that division can use those words, and people inside that division can use them in communications that are outside that list.

GM has enough problems on its own without people distorting their message to make them sound worse than they are.

Half Right and Half Very Wrong (2)

el jocko del oeste (2450190) | about 3 months ago | (#47046217)

It comes down to good engineering. Some of the words on the list are pretty reasonable. Telling your engineers not to use terms like apocalyptic and powder keg is fine--those aren't necessary to accurate technical writing. But defect and safety seem like words that an engineer needs. It's hard to believe that GM's engineers didn't object strongly to those restrictions.

Last Week Tonight: GM Ad (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046221)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6IZ2TroruU

It's the lawyers (5, Insightful)

LarryWMSN (1104101) | about 3 months ago | (#47046259)

If you've ever been deposed as part of a lawsuit, the lawyer will go through every email and key on those particular words to present them is the worst possible light. I had to go through this once and spent three days, basically, justifying every word I used. Now when a customer comes to me and says they have a problem or something is not working, I will ask, "what behavior are you expecting to see and what are you seeing?" When we resolve the "problem", we simply say they should see the expected behavior now and please get back to us if they don't. It sucks but that's the reality.

GM definitely knew they had problems and didn't fix them, but I'm sure there were many emails that were unrelated to their intentional disregard to the known problems that they had to defend along the way. Every little sentence or word that someone has to justify means more time with the lawyers racking up fees. You can't skirt around real problems with the change in words, but it makes it harder for the lawyers to bring in unrelated or insignificant facts into the mix.

Link to the actual artical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046297)

If you'd like a link to the actual article, here it is : http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2014/05/16/the-69-words-you-cant-use-at-gm/

Addditionally, if you'd like the list:
 
always, annihilate, apocalyptic, asphyxiating, bad, Band-Aid, big time, brakes like an “X” car, cataclysmic, catastrophic, Challenger, chaotic, Cobain, condemns, Corvair-like, crippling, critical, dangerous, deathtrap, debilitating, decapitating, defect, defective, detonate, disemboweling, enfeebling, evil, eviscerated, explode, failed, flawed, genocide, ghastly, grenadelike, grisly, gruesome, Hindenburg, Hobbling, Horrific, impaling, inferno, Kevorkianesque, lacerating, life-threatening, maiming, malicious, mangling, maniacal, mutilating, never, potentially-disfiguring, powder keg, problem, rolling sarcophagus (tomb or coffin), safety, safety related, serious, spontaneous combustion, startling, suffocating, suicidal, terrifying, Titanic, unstable, widow-maker, words or phrases with a biblical connotation, you’re toast

revoke their professional licensing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046305)

is it not not a requirement of the professional licensing to not only notify the managers when a product is unsafe, but when the warnings go unheeded to blow the whistle? At a minimum these guys that knew this stuff, if they wanted to do right by their fellow man should have sent the data off to the NTSB. If they didnt at least do that then I say strip them of their license and profession.

Point being? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046315)

Pretty standard. Apple has a similar list including "Hack" "Problem" "Virus" (Unidentified system issues) "Burn" "explode" "leak" (Potentially dangerous hardware issue, etc.

69 Words (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about 3 months ago | (#47046317)

In other news, the GM employees responsible for setting the length of the list will be attending sexual harrassment training.

Only Cowards Censor (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 3 months ago | (#47046321)

n/t see subject.

You can thank legal for that. (1)

SensitiveMale (155605) | about 3 months ago | (#47046387)

Years ago, I remember reading an interview with a GM former employee and he talked about advances in safety. He said, paraphrasing, that GM discovered hundreds of ways each year to improve safety related equipment through R&D and testing, but lawyers prevented from implementing the changes. The lawyers reasoned that the older equipment still passed safety regulations and implementing the improved equipment could open GM to legal action.

how did they publish the list? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47046401)

No one can write down the words that cannot be written down.

NOT emails & memos. (4, Informative)

asylumx (881307) | about 3 months ago | (#47046405)

According to the WSJ article that the AOL article is "borrowing" from (and sensationalizing) these limitations are only applied to "documents used for reports and presentations."

That's bad enough, but we really don't need to discredit them even more for limiting their employees ability to communicate with each other (which they haven't done). They are simply trying to keep emotion out of the official reports & presentations and stick to the facts. I actually don't blame them for trying to do this.
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