“Legends on the Line” is a blog series that stretches from National Lineman Appreciation Day (April 18) to Lineworker Appreciation Day (July 10), in honor of the brave linemen and linewomen who climb above and beyond to power our world.
Lineman lingo from the Lineman’s Slang Dictionary
There’s a lot of work that goes into keeping the lights on. There’s also a lot of vocabulary.
One of the many reasons electrical linemen are unique is that, through decades of making sure folks have access to safe and reliable electricity, they’ve developed the talk of the trade.
While guidelines for linemen terminology vary geographically within the industry, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite Lineman’s Slang Dictionary terms below.
Alley-arm: A side arm brace that’s used when a cross-arm is not balanced on both sides of a pole but only extending out on one side.
Alligator: A tie stick.
AR: An automatic recloser.
Baker board: A platform board.
Baloney bender: A wireman who works with heavy cable.
Banjo: A shovel, straight blade and long handle.
Bear grease: A ZLN electric contact aid.
Becky: A cable sling.
Bible: The electrician’s code book.
Booger wire: A neutral wire.
Bookie tool: A staple puller.
Bookie wheel: A measuring device.
Boomer: A lineman who leaves one job to get to the next job. (Always working on the installation of new transmission lines.
Broomsticks: Phase spacers, used to keep phases from contacting each other at midspan.
Bull pen: Where the crew gathers before and after work.
Bull wheel: A reel device used to hold tension on a transmission conductor during stringing operations.
Bulldog: A “come along” wire grip for holding a conductor or strand under tension.
Candlestick: A fiberglass downlead bracket.
Candy-grabbers: Channel lock pliers (also called cheaters)
Cat head: A capstan hoist.
Cattle guard: A plastic or metal guy guard.
Cherry-picker: A bucket truck.
Chicken-catcher: An arm sling.
Chicken tracks: An epoxirod tri-unit (also called a “crow’s foot”).
Chicken wing: A steel post insulator standoff for distribution construction (also called a “turkey wing”).
Chili bowl: An oversized pin-type insulator.
Choker: A nylon sling.
Christmas tree: A pole-mounted auxiliary arm used for lifting conductors.
Corn cob: A thimble adapter pin.
Crosby clip: A wire rope guy wire clip.
Dead man: A wood pole with a U-bracket fitting for setting poles by hand without a truck. (Includes a short wood pole section, buried as an anchor – any kind of earth anchor.)
Diaper: A rubber blanket pinned on overhead construction (seal-a-conn covering connector).
Digger bar: A long, round steel bar with a two-in chisel on one end (also called an “idiot stick”).
Dip pole: A transition pole for going from overhead to underground distribution (also called a “riser pole”).
Dog bone: A special EHV yoke plate that looks like a bone (vibration damper).
Door: The fuse tube on open-type cutouts (the actual door on enclosed-type cutouts).
Drifter: A lineman who wants to see the world.
Eagle-eye: Leveling cross-arms by sight with no measuring instruments.
Eels: A line hose or temporary cover-up.
Egg-breaker: A guy strain insulator.
Elbow: An underground cable terminator.
Elephant ears: The arc chute on certain types of cutouts for extinguishing the arc while breaking load (a triangular bracket).
Fish: A glass strain insulator.
Flip cutout: An open link cutout.
Flower pot: A universal bushing well (pad-mount transformer).
Goat head: An angle-iron punch.
Goat horns: Guy hooks (iron).
Goat skin: A tarp for covering unfinished work overnight.
Gopher: A “go for this, go for that” helper.
Groundhog: A lineman’s helper (also called a “grunt”).
Gut: A 5kV rubber line hose.
Gut wrench: A cant hook.
Guy jack: A chain hoist.
Half-power: A lineman working off a jag.
Hand: A tie stick.
Headache: A vocal warning of danger. (Usually involves anything falling from a pole above.)
High pot: To apply high potential to electrical machines or equipment, normally during insulation testing.
Hog liver: A flat porcelain guy strain insulator.
House bracket: A secondary rack.
House knob: A wire holder.
Jiggler: A secondary voltage tester (a glow light also referred to as a “wiggle”).
Joy jelly: A silicone compound for elbow terminators.
Jumper: A slack electrical connection between two points.
Jumper-holding stick: A wire-holding stick.
Kettle: An overhead transformer (also called a “tub”).
Knife switch: A hook stick disconnect.
Lady slippers: A name old-timers apply to present-day climbers.
Leg irons: Climbers’ hooks.
Leroy: A generator.
Line gut: A conductor cover.
Line profile: A scaled side-view drawing of an actual line for an engineer’s review.
Liners: Cloth glove liners for hard hats in the winter.
Meat hook: A hand line hook.
Mickey Mouse key-puller: A cotter key-puller.
Milking stool: A yoke used on the end of a structure for supporting hot line tension tools.
Moles: An underground line crew.
Music stand: A hot line tool rack.
Nitros: Street light bulbs.
Nose bag: A canvas tool pouch.
Nutty putty: A seal-a-conn for covering connectors.
OCB: An oil circuit breaker.
Old man: An A-frame transformer gin (also called a “pole buddy”).
Pad: A pad-mounted transformer.
PCB: A power circuit breaker that opens the current under-fault or overload condition (a polychlorinated biphenyl chemical).
Pen and pencil set: A digging bar and spoon.
Persuader: A hammer (also called a “bender”).
Phase: One (single) conductor.
Pickle-fork: A two- or three-prong tie stick.
Pickles: Wire connectors.
Pig: A cover-up.
Pig livers: Special yokes used on EHV lines or dead-ends.
Pigtail: A leader or cable on fuse links.
Pineapple: A spool insulator.
Pistol: An elbow terminator.
Pizza plate: A fork suspension attachment.
Pogo stick: A telescoping tool.
Pole crab: A wire tong saddle.
Pork chop: A “come along” wire grip for a holding conductor or strand that’s under tension.
Pot: A potential transformer (a pole-top transformer).
Pole stub: A pole reinforcer.
Potato hook: A fixed-prong tie stick.
Pothead: A point where separate or overhead electrical conductors come together and continue as a cable (the termination device used on the end of an underground cable).
Pouch: A tool bag.
PTO: Power take-off.
Rake: A tie stick.
Red head jumper: An insulated jumper clamp.
Red one: An extremely short distance.
Reptile: An insulating line hose (also called a “snake”).
Ridge pin: A pole-top pin.
Roughneck: A trouble-chaser.
Saddle pin: A cross-arm-type pin that fits like a saddle.
Save-a-climb: A universal fitting for laying lines over cross-arms and through trees with a stick.
Sawdust machine: A brace and bit (or drill).
Service drop: The conductor between a pole and terminal on a building.
Sharpshooter: A shovel with a long, narrow blade for digging holes in ground that is like clay.
Sheave: Any type of rope block.
Shoe-fly: A temporary line built to bypass a construction area.
Short hook-up: The cord and clips for an electric drill.
Shotgun stick: A grip-all stick (also called a “slip stick”).
Single jack: A heavy hammer.
Sinker: A pin pushed down through cross-arm and insulator rests on a cross-arm.
Sister-eye: The eyebolt or anchor rod eye for a guy strand or insulator.
Skywire: A ground wire on top of poles and towers that protects the lines from lightning.
Sleeve: A splice.
Slug: A solid blade on open-type cutouts.
Snake: An insulating line hose.
Spool bolt: An upset bolt used to support spool insulators.
Spoon: A cup-shaped shovel with a long handle.
Squeeze-on: A compression fitting (connector).
Squeeze wrench: A hand compression or cutting wrench.
Squirrel cage: A steel bracket mounted on a pole to support line conductors.
Staking: To survey and mark locations for each new line pole.
Stinger: A wire from cutout to transformer (a boom extension).
Strong arm: A chain or strap hoist for pulling wire.
Switch-stick: A disconnect stick.
Tagline: A rope used to tie off line or to control load being lifted.
Tag-out: A link stick.
Tap clamp: A hotline clamp.
Three-phase set: A spoon, spade and shovel – all designed for different uses.
Thumper: An underground fault locator.
Thru-bolt: A machine bolt.
Toilet seat: An insulator retainer for a trolley pole (a fork suspension tool attachment).
Tongs: These usually refer to pole tongs, which are used for controlling a pole when setting (insulated wire tongs used for supporting or moving an energized conductor).
Transformer bank: A group of two or three transformers at the same location that are connected to the same circuit.
Traveling chain: A movable grounding device.
Traveling chair: A fabricated aluminum two-wheel trolley with an attached chain.
Traveling ladder: A wooden ladder with fiber rollers that is generally used when work or inspection must be done on transmission hardware or a conductor.
Tube: Cable in conduit.
Tupperware: A plastic protective cover.
Two-pound: A lineman’s hammer.
U-bangi: A 15 kV rubber line hose.
URD: Underground residential distribution.
Walking crab: A lever lift.
Waterfall: A triple drum puller.
Weatherhead: The top of the conduit that contains the customer service conductors, constructed so it will resist the wear of rain, sun and other elements.
Westerns: Standard climbers for the old-type Western Union (also called “hooks”).
Wire twister: An inside electrician.
Widow: A cable grip.
Wiggle wire: Any kind of formed wire used for securing conductors to insulators.
Wildcat connection: A three-phase four-wire delta.
Wildcat let: A center tap connection on a three-phase four-wire delta.
Wire bender cutout: An open link cutout (also called a “flip cutout”).
Window pole: A disconnected stick.
Through our Legends on the Line campaign, Border States also helps support National Sisterhood United for Journeymen Linemen, an organization that’s been helping the families of fallen lineworkers since 2012.