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Firing Order: The 4x4 Language We Speak

Posted in Features on May 1, 2018
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A few years ago, my wife’s employer, a neurosurgeon, invited us to his home for a Christmas dinner party. Also invited were a number of leading Illinois neurosurgeons. During the appetizer, the conversation was light, hovering around the nasty Illinois winter and the agony of Christmas shopping. During the entrée is where things really got interesting. The doctors launched into a verbal analysis of neurosurgery stuff like a temporal craniotomy, evacuation of epidural hematoma, debridement of lacerated brain, and laceration of the anterior branch of the middle meningeal artery. Everyone in the room knew exactly what all of this meant, except me.

About three quarters of the way through the analysis, my eyes had glazed over and my right eye was twitching uncontrollably. I was desperately wishing I had a medical dictionary. I thought I was going to have a brain aneurysm right there at the table. Couldn’t have happened at a better place, I guess. And then the strangest thing happened. Conversation ceased, and one of the neurosurgeons turned his gaze my way and said, “Interesting vehicle you have out there,” referring to my moderately built Jeep Cherokee XJ parked outside. “What have you done to it?” Another said, “It doesn’t look like any Cherokee I’ve ever seen.” “Well,” I stammered, “it’s got a bored two and a half, rebuilt AX15, 4.10s, re-arched leaves, a pair of Detroits, and 4 inches with 33s.” When I finished my brief, yet comprehensive overview, I looked around the table and noted that all of the people’s eyes had glazed over and their right eyes were twitching.

To the average person, the average conversation on the average trail ride sounds like we’re speaking Farsi. We tend to shorten our rig’s specifications into numbers and condensed phrases and then spew them out in one concise declaration. For example, an ’01 Jeep Wrangler with a rollcage, 4.0L engine, four-speed automatic transmission, 4:1 transfer case, Dana 44 rear axle with locker, Dana 44 front axle with locker, 4.10:1 ring-and-pinion, 6-inch long-arm suspension lift and 35x10.50R15 tires can be succinctly paraphrased by a wheeler to require much less time and oxygen. The resultant description can be easily summed up by saying, oh-one TJ, caged, four-oh, auto, four-to-one, locked forty-fours with four-tens, and a long-arm 6-inch with thirty-fives.

When referring to trails, our wheeling lingo is also different than that spoken by non-wheelers. Not necessarily shortened like how we describe our rigs, instead it’s just 180-degrees opposite. For instance, a non-wheeler looks at a boulder and says, “Look at that boulder blocking the trail. Not going that way.” We say, “Look at that awesome obstacle conveniently placed in the middle of the trail.” A non-wheeler sees a giant mudhole in the middle of the trail and says, “That mud’s too deep, we have to go around.” We say, “Watch this.”

The bottom line is that every line of work or hobby has its own unique language, and some of them contain pretty impressive verbiage. But hey, us wheelers have it going on too. So the next time your neighbor, the Plasma Fusion Center Physicist Engineer of Molecular Diagnostics in charge of Bioanalytical Computational Chemistry, tries to impress you with some of his jargon, fire back with an onslaught of wicked wheelin’ lingo.

—Ken Brubaker

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