Old Guy Slang: "Government Work"

Herk

Woodsman
Mar 16, 2017
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A little background:
About two years ago I was working at a machine shop where I had some rare down-time and so I brought in a home-brew Kydex holster to sand down on the belt sander there (my belt sander at home was out of commission). One of my coworkers, aged 66, saw me sanding down what was pretty obviously a pistol holster and he made a comment to the effect of "Doin' a little government work today, eh?" I didn't really understand what he meant but I just smiled and agreed with him and nothing more was said about it.

Yesterday I stuck around after work at the shop (different place than I worked back during the Kydex thing) to modify an RS Regulate AK scope mount. I asked my boss to make sure that it was okay and he asked me what I was working on. I showed him the mount and told him that it was a rifle scope mount and that I had some clearance issues with the scope that I wanted to solve. Later I overheard my boss (he's in his early 60's) tell one of my coworkers that I'd be sticking around after-hours "doing government work".

Was "government work" a euphemism for gunsmithing or something else firearms-related back in the day? These two instances are the only times that I've heard that term used in this way. I always like learning about etymologies and it's interesting that two different people of about the same age group who have never met each other (to my knowledge) would use this phrase in this context. Can anyone shed some light?
 

Grunk

Hard to be an Outlaw that ain't Wanted anymore
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A little background:
About two years ago I was working at a machine shop where I had some rare down-time and so I brought in a home-brew Kydex holster to sand down on the belt sander there (my belt sander at home was out of commission). One of my coworkers, aged 66, saw me sanding down what was pretty obviously a pistol holster and he made a comment to the effect of "Doin' a little government work today, eh?" I didn't really understand what he meant but I just smiled and agreed with him and nothing more was said about it.

Yesterday I stuck around after work at the shop (different place than I worked back during the Kydex thing) to modify an RS Regulate AK scope mount. I asked my boss to make sure that it was okay and he asked me what I was working on. I showed him the mount and told him that it was a rifle scope mount and that I had some clearance issues with the scope that I wanted to solve. Later I overheard my boss (he's in his early 60's) tell one of my coworkers that I'd be sticking around after-hours "doing government work".

Was "government work" a euphemism for gunsmithing or something else firearms-related back in the day? These two instances are the only times that I've heard that term used in this way. I always like learning about etymologies and it's interesting that two different people of about the same age group who have never met each other (to my knowledge) would use this phrase in this context. Can anyone shed some light?
As a resident old guy, I can shed a little light here. When I was overhauling machinery and other mechanical work, it referred to a personal (or unassigned) task done at work. I was always told it was along the lines of, "Secret Government Work, that's why you don't know about it."
 
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SouthernSlammed

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It's doing something, but not getting shit done!

"Good enough for Government work!"

In State and Local Government, there is folks getting paid but ain't getting shit done!
 

Mac11FA

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Ah, yes.

As quoted from a dictionary site
"Originated in World War II. When something was "good enough for Government work" it meant it could pass the most rigorous of standards. Over the years it took on an ironic meaning that is now the primary sense, referring to poorly executed work."

I had access to a lathe, mill welder and other equipment. I could work on personal non-work related projects. We always called it "doin government work."
 
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Grunk

Hard to be an Outlaw that ain't Wanted anymore
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Any idea how that came to be? Maybe I'm biased but "government" is one of the last words I'd select to be a synonym for "personal".
It was always explained to me as I mentioned above:

Coworker: I don't recognize that. What project is it for?

Me: Government work. None of your concern.
 
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SouthernSlammed

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Any idea how that came to be? Maybe I'm biased but "government" is one of the last words I'd select to be a synonym for "personal".
Might go work for government for a little while, you'll figure it out!
There's always personal work going on during Government time!
Even if off the clock, using machinery for personal, when it could be making money!
 
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chance

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Jul 15, 2015
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It was always explained to me as I mentioned above:

Coworker: I don't recognize that. What project is it for?

Me: Government work. None of your concern.
This is my understanding as well.
And as the youngest guy in the shop at the time, was pretty much exactly what happened lol

Me: Hey JR, what are you working on?
JR: Confidential government work
Me: oh okay. *starts to walk away because all we made was stuff for military aircraft*
JR: im kidding, come check this out but dont run your jaw about it.

Some places ive worked dont care at all if you use the equipment for personal projects, and in my mind its a great, practically free way to keep morale up