Words to Swim by: Commercial Diver Slang


Search here for the internet’s most complete guide to commercial diving’s slangs and off-hand phrases. It’s separated into the following categories:

  • People
  • Equipment or things
  • Situations
  • Methods
  • Places
  • Times

Diver Words & Phrases



Dopes-on-Ropes/Sky-Walkers – Rope Access Workers who abseil off the side of platform. Dopes-on-ropes is a somewhat pejorative and offensive term, possibly coined by the scaffolders.

House Mouse – Rig handyman, go-to-guy for everyday fixes in the accommodation module. May be head steward or technician by trade.

Industrial Maniac – A more intense, fanatical and driven worker who exceeds the speed and work rate of those around him. When found near One-Man-Shutdowns, strange levels of productivity occur…as individuals they are often the talk of the platform.

Mechys/Mechy Fitters – Mechanics

OCS – Offshore Construction Superintendent. The construction head honcho and the go-to-guru for black-hat trades. Not known for their sense of humor.

OIM – Offshore Installation Manager. Head honcho of the platform. The buck starts (and often stops) here.

Smoggee – Nickname given to city-dwellers in a certain North-eastern urban area in England.

Pipeys – Pipefitters

Scaffs – Nickname for scaffolders.

PrimaDona – Newly broke out diver with a grudge, who takes it out on the tenders.

Slope-on-a-rope – Japanese diver with tough to pronounce name (and a sense of humor).

Muppet – Someone incapable of getting anything right unless someone else holds their hand, showing them how to do it.

Boffin – Marine scientist

Bubblehead – Diver

Hero in the water – Standby diver soaking

Wing – Collective group of divers who flutter about, complaining of pay, work conditions and how should they join a union.

Sat Betty – Dive Tender for the saturation system.


Back Scratcher – Safety feature on high ladders installed offshore. Instead of falling down from the top to the bottom, the theory is that it catches you part way, saving you from a full-fall.

Cat’s Head – Part of the derricks mechanical works that, historically, would allow roughnecks to tighten and torque up drill pipe using chain and rope. Potentially fatal if mishandled.

DONUT – Abseiling equipment installed as an escape system offshore.

Half-Height – A short and lengthy container that’s open on top.

Ham – Overtime work or money.

Stand-by Boat – A patrolling vessel that acts as a rescue and recovery craft. Man overboard, rig emergency’s requiring evacuation and fire-fighting can be called upon by these craft.

Paraffin Pigeon/Whirly Bird – Helicopter that transports oil and gas workers to and from the platform. Its arrival and departure are much lauded and spoken about. Types of helicopter can vary, some are better than others.

Hose – sometimes your umbilical , sometimes not.

Bailout – 1) Scuba bottle. 2) A tender with money.

Mailbouy – Buoys specially dropped by Post Office for new tenders on first trip offshore.

Nipples – Short pipe threaded at each end.

Jet – T-nozzle with water coming out each end to move mud.

Jet Pump – multi-stage 4×6 , centrifical water pump driven by large diesel engine.

Airlift – Long pipe with air induced at bottom end to provide lift (often stolen PVC pipe from road construction projects).

Nemo – Neumofathometer (you can understand why it gets called Nemo).

ChugChug – Diesel powered LP compressor used for air tools.

Dangerous Aussies – Nasty marine critters that you find in Australia (Blue Ringed Octopus, Box Jellyfish, Stonefish, etc.)

Cadillac – Half-ton wire come-a-long

D-1  Basic shovel, manual version of a D-9 Caterpillar earth-mover. Not seen much offshore but often used for inland work.

Jam– Filling tanks or bailouts

Pony Bottle – Bailout cylinder

Rope Spanner – Knife

Noah – Shark

Pick – Anchor

Snoop – Soapy water (gas leak testing)

Iron Cadillac – Re-compression chamber where you decompress.

Magic Wand – Cavitation blaster

Diver Candy – Sudafed



Bed Buster/Golden Ticket – A fortunate occurrence that results in an early trip finish on full pay. Usually decided via a lottery decision by supervisors. Reasons include a lack of bed spaces.

Bell-to-Bell – Shipyard term for working on jobs solidly from start to finish and being unable to finish early, even if said jobs are already completed.

Black-balled/NRB – Not Required Back. Acronym describing the ‘black-balling’ of a worker for reasons that can range from ‘creative differences’ with supervisors up to violent conduct offshore. This is normally every oil workers worst nightmare due to the stigma and financial implications.

Down-manned – Early finish / rotation off platform due to job completion. Also rumoured to be used in lieu of NRB in some cases.

Hard Lie – Forced to sleep elsewhere from your normal accommodation offshore. Usual when shuttling to remote satellite rigs by helicopter.

One-Man-Shutdown – Supervisor, charge hand or worker who sets out to complete as much of a shutdown as humanly possible using either his workforce or individual drive and skill. They can be glory-seekers, grafters or simply workaholics. They tend to be loved and loathed in equal measure.

Policin’ the Bridge – Applicable to multi-platform installations with a singular access bridge between accommodation module platform and others. Supervisors who linger and watch over it for oil workers attempting to either finish early or sneak off for an in-betweeney.

Policin’ the Tea Shack – Act of reprimanding workers by a supervisor, actively ensuring they do not engage in in-betweeneys and/or reprimands those who are in the tea shack outside official break times.

Policin’ the Job – Direct scrutiny of workers for a longer duration than is necessary by an over-zealous supervisor.

Fizzed – Suffering from decompression illness.

Burlying up – Seasickness over the side.

Push a Pig/Pre-dive Panic Pinch – Bathroom call

Hump and dump – Up on the divers’ slack, then dump it back in the trunk of the bell.

7 over 5 – No more slack – time to surface.

Tree Trouble – Valves won’t move.

Spinneys at 180 – Depth you found spiny oysters on good legs; you always share that info.

There is a tool bin down here – Lots of tools dropped off rigs.

I’m popped again – Ambosol in the chamber, another tooth cap gone due to bad dentists and mixed gas on your way up.

BANG BANG BANG – Command to send hydrolics.

Airmail it – Send equipment without the retrieval line.

Get high on yer whipline – Come up on the crane.

Put it in the big blue toolbox – Send something overboard.

Hat the Diver – Putting on the diving helmet.

Up and Over – From the bottom of the latter to the deck.

All-stop – Operations come to a stop both land and dive.


Billy Pugh – Older method of transporting crew via a crane and carriage to boat / platform and vice versa.

Bunkering – Taking on diesel fuel, water and drilling fluids from a supply boat from great hoses being lowered down by the crane.

Helideck Shuffle – Style of walking or gait used by helideck crew while on the helideck.

Fed-Ex on its Way – Tools coming down a line by shackle. Tender keeps a tight line on you to receive.


Boot Locker – Workers changing rooms and transit area to work areas. Normally found in the lower levels of the accommodation module.

Dog House – Area within the derrick where the toolpusher, driller and other high-ranking types plan and carry out drilling operations.

Dunny – Bottom of the rig.

Money Mist/Fogged-in – When fog descends on a rig, preventing helicopter flights from landing or taking off. Workers therefore get paid for extra days spent on the platform. Normally they have to work for it hence, strictly speaking the term ‘money mist’ is arguable.

Galley – Designated restaurant offshore. Serves food at meal times. Food quality can vary…

Smoke Shack – Platform smoking room, normally external to the accommodation module.

Smoko’s – May refer to Smoke Shack or an internal accommodation module smoking room. The latter is usually more comfortable.

Spider Deck – Lowest level on a platform, and normally requires special access from the OIM. Mind your step down here, it’s often subject to the major corrosive effects of the sea.

Tea/Soup Shack – Brew and rest area for oil and gas workers. Often a place for loose talk, banter and animated discussion.

The Can – Surface decompression chamber


Choppers Eve – Day previous to when the helicopter arrives.

In-betweeney – Minor, unofficial breaks outside of official tea breaks. Sometimes discouraged and loathed by supervisors/foreman.


Red Eye – Early morning check-in time for helicopters.

Tea Break – Official break time, usually in the morning and afternoon.







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