Certain professions have their own particular vocabulary, as Dr. Know explains to this questioner from the August 2012 issue.
Cincinnati ﬁre ﬁghters routinely service the ﬁre hydrants in each neighborhood—a process they call “plugging.” My family has a long association with ﬁreﬁghting, and we’ve never heard the term used anywhere else. What can you tell us about the origin of the expression?—Plugged In
Dear Plugged:While it would be nice to think that America’s first professional firefighters were also coiners of their own special argot (“We got really hungry from all that plugging, so we sent out for coneys,”) there is nothing particularly local about the gerund or participle that has baffled you. What is, perhaps, odd is that you seem to be unaware of “plugs,” the historic word for the street furniture you call hydrants. Fireplug or just plug is still the word of choice for unpretentious Americans, citizens who instinctively go for the frank word rather than the euphemism, people who prefer honest Anglo-Saxon to slippery Norman French, speakers who expect to go to their grave in a coffin rather than a casket. Firefighters are, in general, plain spoken, so when they work on plugs they speak of plugging, just as when Mrs. Know uses an iron to make the Doctor’s Herbert Hoover–style shirt collars stand to attention she speaks of ironing.
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