What NOT to say to a Geotechnical Engineer

8th July 2022

Industry matters

We’re a pretty easy-going bunch at Ground and Water, but that doesn’t mean we’re completely impossible to annoy. I fancied a bit of a Buzzfeed-style list-post and thought “what not to say to a geo-technical engineer” could make for a fairly entertaining article. I opened the topic up to our engineers and let me tell you, the company-wide Teams chat WENT OFF!


“Can I just have a quote for this site?”

Of course you can – “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” – Forrest Gump. Not what you had in mind? Sorry, but it’s about as much help as a quote for site investigation works without any idea of background, conditions, or end goal. When we fully understand what it is you’re looking to achieve, we can give you a much better idea of scopes, costs and timeframes.

“WAP? Like the song?”
No, not like the song. Although Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion rapping about Waste Acceptance Protocols is certainly something we’d like to see, and would almost definitely be more family friendly, this is very different. No bucket or mop required.

“Found any gold/oil yet?”
Not in all my years doing this job, despite being asked about 5 times a day. A few bottles, some crockery, and a disused Victorian sewage pipe, though – all recent finds which are a little less glamourous.

“Careful not to fall in that hole” (when it is a 100mm wide borehole)
Very funny – Slenderman himself couldn’t fall down this hole. I know, that’s the joke, and it was probably funny the first time I heard it. But that was a while ago and the repetition has worn me down.

“Insert joke about skin friction and point loads”
Probably best to avoid making jokes out of vaguely rude sounding things altogether, no matter the job title of your victim/conversational partner. Yes, sometimes we bring a pocket penetrometer to site, and yes, that sounds a little bit like something a Timelord might use in the bedroom. But no, we won’t be going into it with you

“Is the soil contaminated?”
Hang on, John, let me just give it a little taste test and see. There is no way of knowing what’s in the soil, and in what concentration, prior to our lab tests – our prior research has probably given us a clue, but we’re testing it precisely because we’re not sure – hold your horses!

“Are you an archeologist?” 

That one was suggested by Jack Wilden on LinkedIn, but in fairness he was wearing a fedora and carrying a whip when he was asked, so we can’t really blame the person in question.

“You had better be careful…..the old farmer buried dead cows in that field during the foot and mouth crisis!!”
Okay – if it’s true, we definitely would rather know. It will lead to dealings with council vets and public health officers, though, so it’s not generally good news.

“Did you put the asbestos in the sample yourself?”
Ask yourself two questions – how and why? What would we have to gain from doing something like that, other than asbestosis?

“They buried the killer whale over there”
Okay, if you ever have a chance to use this sentence, go for it. It’s a bit weird, though – this was said to a member of the team who helped with the redevelopment of Windsor Zoo to what is now Legoland.

“If we find any coffins, we have to stop and if you find any bones please put them back”
Again, our line of work can involve some unpleasant surprises, but this doesn’t usually signal the start of a fun day. Another example from our colleague who did the Windsor job above – I don’t want to know any more about their chequered past.


Do you enjoy our more light-hearted blogs? If so, you may like this one comparing ground types to drinks you might order in the pub or this “case study” on the Leaning Tower of Pisa

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