BOL Versus LOL. It’s Literally Not What You Think!

This might come as a surprise to my regular readers, but I’m not usually the most hip when it comes to popular lingo. Text talk and memes seem to evolve a lot faster than I can keep up with, so I don’t exactly try. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw my boys using a new text message slang term I could actually recognize – BOL!

“How’s the BOL, dudes?” I asked. I felt hip, for once, like I would surprise my sons by speaking their own language. I wasn’t sure why my kids were talking about what we call a BOL – a bill of lading for freight shipments – but I was on board and ready go for it.

Of course, they looked at me like I’d sprouted a second head. To them, it seems “BOL” means “Busting out Laughing,” or alternately, “Best of Luck.” They sent me to that collection of all internet slang, good and bad – the Urban Dictionary.

lingoIf you aren’t familiar with Urban Dictionary, allow me to introduce you. Think of a combination between your typical online dictionary and something more like Wikipedia, where users from all over the world can add in local slang, chatspeak, and other useful lingo. The trouble with the Wiki-style access is that it means everyone can add words – they aren’t exactly screened for accuracy, and it can get a bit wild.

Intrigued, I decided to search for more logistics lingo and this is what I found:

Hub and Spoke: In our industry, a hub and spoke is a special type of terminal used for freight consolidation. But it turns out, it’s also a popular Urban Dictionary term as well – meaning to repair something, or make it right. As in, “I fixed it, dude. My car is all hub and spoke!”

Deadhead: Now, I’ve known a few Deadheads in my day – both in and out of the logistics industry! But while Urban Dictionary might insist that Deadheads are fans of the band The Grateful Dead, we in the trucking industry don’t even use it to refer to a person.

For us, deadhead is a leg of a trip during which no freight is carried – something we try to avoid.

VATOS: In logistics lingo, VATOS stands for Valid At Time Of Shipping. Surcharges such as BAF and CAF are determined the moment the goods are loaded onto a vessel or aircraft. But if you hear your kids talking about vatos – you might want to look in on their texts. Turns out vatos is OG (Original Gangster, if you don’t already know) for homeboys in Spanish. There is a famous street gang in the United States called the Vatos Locos (or, Crazy Dudes, in English), so watch out!

According to the Urban Dictionary, a reefer is not a refrigerated truck (I bet you already know the alternate definition), and a container is actually someone who wears jeans with flip flops, as in: “OMG! Look at the way that dude is dressed – what a container!”

Finally, I learned that intermodal is a popular term with underground traveling subcultures of freight-train hoppers, hitchhikers, hobos, migrants, and punks. And the way it’s used is very close to our industry’s definition of the term. Traveling subcultures would use it like this: “I didn’t have any money left, so I had to go intermodal– I hitchhiked to South Carolina, hopped a train to Georgia, and then found a ride share to Florida.”

I hope you enjoyed this collection of OBU terms That’s Official, But Unofficial – not to be confused with On Board Units. Who knew logistics could be so hip?

Happy Monday,