You've Got a Dead Cricket

The discussion of jargon has reminded me of a story told to me by a colleague. As this is at least a third-hand accounting, I will cast this as fiction, but based on a (probably) true story, and given that I have either forgotten or was never told the names of those involved, their anonymity is protected. (I am sure I have forgotten some details and it undoubtedly contains some embellishment.)

This story involves a teaching assistant working in an advanced lab class involving electronics, helping the students with their lab projects as needed. A student was having some trouble with his circuit and after unsuccessful attempts to diagnose the problem, went to the TA for help.

Student – “I’m stuck. Something isn’t working right.”

TA – “OK, let’s have a look” (TA checks a few things and then finally traces it to the power supply and opens it up and pokes around). “Ah, here’s your problem: you have a dead cricket.”

At this point the student undergoes an attitudinal phase change: “Oh for &@%#’s sake I am SO sick of all this @!$*& jargon! What the hell is a dead cricket? Can’t you just speak some plain English for a change? You physics people make this all too confusing! What do you mean it’s a dead cricket?”

At which point the TA show the student the power supply, and points to the dead bug — a cricket — that was connecting the + and — electrodes inside and was shorting out the power supply. “I mean it’s a dead cricket.”

One thought on “You've Got a Dead Cricket

  1. Here’s one first hand.

    I was doing a fault course as part of telecoms Lineserviceman training and we were in a training area that had all the different types of lines i.e. underground, aerial, pits, pillars and manholes and all the different types of cabling. The instructor could set up all different types of faults on live lines that we would have to detect and track down with the use of meters and test equipment.

    We came across one line that went open, close, open, close etc and when we brought this to the instructors attention he said that he could not set up this type of line fault in the test area.

    We tracked down the fault to a pillar that had a line of ants running over the test line pins. As they passed over the live line pair they caused the open, close, open, close etc behaviour on the meter. No bull.

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