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All units: what am I on about?

© Macmillan AustraliaOK, I’ve got a bit of a quiz for you.

I freely admit that I watch too much television, and like many people, I watch quite a few ‘cop shows’, though these days, ‘cop shows’ can involve anything from genius mathematicians to lip reading FBI agents to forensic anthropologists! Whatever the spin of the particular programme though, the governing factor for me is the characters, rather than the story – hence I like CSI New York, can occasionally watch CSI Miami (depending on my ‘cheese’ tolerance) but remain completely unmoved by the original CSI (apologies to any fans out there).

I’ve noticed, though, that watching these shows has led to a whole new string of vocab in my head, most of it abbreviations. It occurred to me the other day – what if I accidentally start using bits of it in conversation, no-one will know what I’m on about! Then a friend of mine came out with one of these words in a completely non-cop-show context; everyone else looked a bit blank, but of course I immediately understood. So it’s not just me then. Most of these words, to be fair, you’d have a hard time slipping into ordinary conversation without looking distinctly odd (especially outside of the US), and doing so would probably act like a bit of a flashing light – ‘warning, geek alert!’ – but just for fun, let’s see how many of them you can identify:

1.    BOLO
2.    APB
3.    donor
4.    LEO
5.    CSI
6.    mass. spec.
7.    CODIS
8.    GSR
9.    AFIS
10.    BA

And here are the answers for you:

1.    BOLO – be on the look out
2.    APB – All Points Bulletin (the BOLO of Starsky & Hutch’s day really!)
3.    donor – the  person who left their DNA / fingerprints / bodily fluids (eugh!)
4.    LEO – Law Enforcement Officer
5.    CSI – Crime Scene Investigation / Investigator (what we in the UK would probably call SOCO – Scenes Of Crime Officer)
6.    mass. spec. – mass spectrometer: a piece of forensic science equipment
7.    CODIS – Combined DNA Identification System
8.    GSR – gunshot residue
9.    AFIS – Automated Fingerprint Identification System
10.    BA – behavioural analysis

So, how did you do? (I knew eight of them, and had to look two up.) In true women’s magazine-style, I shall now help you interpret your scores:

0 Detached from modern culture, now you know why no-one talks to you round the watercooler.
1-3 Must try harder (if you want to be in with the hip crowd… )
4-6 Probably what we should all be aiming for – a healthy balance (but don’t get too smug, that’s never attractive)
7-9 Beware, you’re on the slippery slope; turn off the TV, quick!
10 Oh dear. Off you go to geek-land.

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Sharon Creese


  • Shocking Sarah, though your watching of NCIS because Abby’s so cool, does salvage things a bit.

    Sadly though, I got BOLO and LEO mainly from NCIS. GSR and AFIS also come up there too, and the ‘mass. spec.’ is Abby’s favourite piece of kit – she calls it ‘Major Mass Spec’ –

    Oh dear, I really need to get out more…

  • Morning all. On the radio this morning, Sarah Montague had to ask an interviewee from Manchester what a CBM was. Turns out to be a Community Beat Manager. Bet they don’t have those in CSI Miami Vice…

  • My question is this: exactly which one of those words did your friend use in the ‘non-cop show context’? I’ve been through them all, and can’t quite imagine … ‘GSR’ and ‘donor’, in particular, left me wondering just what sort of peeps you hang out with. In the end I decided I’d put my money on BOLO. Am I right?

  • Spot on Laine, it was, indeed, BOLO – she said she was going to put a BOLO out for someone we hadn’t seen in a while! (We try not to talk about ‘donors’ if we can help it!)

    George – thanks for your comment. I’m thinking that if there was a Community Beat Manager on ‘CSI Miami Vice’, s/he would probably be playing the drums…!

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