Carl "SAI" Mitchell January 29, 2010 1:58 PM

The best way that could have been more amusing is if the innocent bystander “Too much math” woman had pulled out a badge and said “NSA.”

Bob Sacamano January 29, 2010 3:20 PM

The RCMP has a 4 letter abbreviation and was thus excluded from this operation. Their abbrev. did not fit in the three (3) boxes reserved for this on the appropriate form.

Off Topic January 29, 2010 4:11 PM


Um, guys? “Deconfliction” is not a word. 😉

Please explain your definition of “word.” If “Um” meets your criteria, you get extra points. If “;)” passes, I’ll write you a haiku.

Shadowfirebird-approved-word or not, google it, and you can learn lots of good stuff.

Rich Wilson January 29, 2010 4:14 PM

Of course, in reality, at least one of those ID cards would have been fake, and the terrorist would have walked away.

shadowfirebird January 29, 2010 4:46 PM

  • The Concise Oxford English Dictionary has nothing between ‘decompressor’ and ‘decongestant’.
  • google define:deconfliction returns no results.
  • C-OED page 1514: “um, int. expressing hesitation or a pause in speech.”

You have me on the smiley, though. 😀

Bruce Schneier January 29, 2010 5:07 PM

“Of course, in reality, at least one of those ID cards would have been fake, and the terrorist would have walked away.”

Good point. I have no idea what a real Secret Service ID card looks like. Or an FBI card, for that matter.

Off Topic January 29, 2010 5:14 PM

Here’s your scorecard:

Creativity: 0 extra credit
Clarity & Precision: 3/10
“Deconfliction” fails: 10/10
“Um” passes: 2 extra credit

Final Score: 15/20 = 75% (C)

Thanks for playing FreezeTheEnglishLanguage. Let’s play again next week.

altjira January 29, 2010 5:17 PM


“Google is my dictionary”? I don’t see how you can justify that it is a real word when the Google result is this post…

Paul Renault January 29, 2010 5:28 PM

“Hill Street Blues” had an episode or two, where the set up a sting restaurant to catch a corrupt inspector. The restaurant was a filthy disgusting place, where every one on staff was actually a police officer, an armed undercover police officer.

After a while, they’re just about to get the inspector to ask for a bribe, and someone walks into the restaurant, looks around, pulls out a gun, and, pointing it at the cash register, says something like “This is a stick up”.

The undercover police officer at the cash register says something like, “OK, I’ll give you the money in the cash, but you might want to turn around…”

Which he does, to see about ten plainclothes cops with their guns out, pointing at him.

Tangerine Blue January 29, 2010 5:59 PM

I have no idea what a real Secret Service ID
card looks like. Or an FBI card

Probably no longer works, but that reminds me of a scene from a movie.

From The Untouchables:

Malone: OK, pal, why the mahaska? Why are you carrying the gun?

Ness: I’m a treasury officer.

Malone: Alright. Just remember what we talked about now.
[Malone walks away]

Ness: Hey, wait a minute! What the hell kind of policemen you got in this god damn city? You just turned your back on an armed man.

Malone: You’re a treasury officer.

Ness: How do you know that? I just told you that.

Malone: Who would claim to be that who was not? Hmm?

John Hardin January 29, 2010 7:34 PM

The best way that could have been more amusing
is if the innocent bystander “Too much math” woman
had pulled out a badge and said “NSA.”

…or “IRS”.

B.G. Helou January 29, 2010 9:19 PM

Well … I just went to “why is he suggest I watch this cruft” to choking on my soda in record time.


Fabian January 30, 2010 7:46 AM

@Albert: Because real law enforcement works exactly the same way as it does on TV, and because a private security contractor would be so much more effective in preventing terrorism than the state, and would never ever just decide that trying to fight it doesn’t make them enough money to be worth the effort, and start to just ignore it.

Petréa Mitchell January 30, 2010 10:39 AM

I notice everyone’s lost track of the woman with math anxiety by the end of the clip. I hope someone remembers to check the security camera footage to see what she was up to while everyone was distracted…

Magno January 30, 2010 10:54 AM

Esse vídeo foi Demais !!!!
Muito bom, será que isso ja aconteceu?
seria engraçado depois de tudo

justanobservationnothingserious January 30, 2010 12:32 PM

That was great! Thanks for sharing. I am betting that the NSA would be too smart to show up at that dog and pony show. The woman would have been a private sector contractor for the observation.

Andre LePlume January 30, 2010 2:32 PM

Actually, the Math Lady was with Blackwater. After the other guys left, she shot the next five customers to walk in, and then blew up the building.

shadowfirebird January 30, 2010 4:05 PM

Thanks for marking me up!

But I’m not freeze-the-english-language guy. In fact I’m don’t-assume-your-audience-knows-your-technical-terms guy. And here’s my ID to prove it… 😉

jgreco January 30, 2010 6:14 PM

With a trivial amount of deduction it should be possible to understand the word ‘deconfliction’ without resorting to google. Simply remove the ‘de’ prefix and you are left with ‘confliction’, a word anyone fluent in english should know. As far as I’m concerned, if a word is able to reasonably convey meaning, there is no reason to say it isn’t a “real” word.

Hilarious video by the way 🙂

Ush January 31, 2010 8:02 PM

@jgreco at January 30, 2010 6:14 PM

I really doubt that anyone fluent in english uses “confliction”. Most uses that I’ve seen use “conflict” both as noun and verb. “Confliction” sounds stilted and weird. When was the last time you had a “confliction” with someone as opposed to a conflict?

However I’d guess “deconfliction” is now a widely recognized word, or at least has a good chance of becoming one.

shadowfirebird February 1, 2010 4:28 AM

I’m with jgreco: “confliction” is not a word that I can intuit any meaning from, let alone “deconfliction”. In fact it IS in the C-OED, but it’s hardly in regular usage.

How would you use it? Would you say “the two sides were in confliction”, or “the two sides were in conflict”? Would you say “There was some confliction between…” or “There was some conflict between…”? Sorry, it sounds like a Bushism, or one of those dumb spin-words that the military make up these days. Hence my mickey-taking.

Incidentally, what was wrong with “jurestriction”, or “demarcation”, to take two perfectly good examples of a well-known english word describing the concept of agencies keeping out of each others hair?

jgreco February 1, 2010 8:50 AM

@Ush, shadowfirebird

huh, I often hear/use the word confliction, generally used something like “there was a confliction with my dentist appointment”. Usually it refers to some sort of scheduling error due to an overlap of something, so using it to refer to an issue apparently caused by an overlap of responsibility as result of a lack of communication makes sense to me.

Maybe it’s a regional thing. I can’t say I ever really thought of the word as weird, though apparently I’m something of a minority there.


‘Incidentally, what was wrong with … “demarcation”‘

Now that word I have never heard before. 🙂

Larry February 1, 2010 11:07 AM

My wife makes up words all the time and when questioned about it she says that it is the prerogative of an English Major to “discover” new words.

dragonfrog February 1, 2010 3:05 PM

I agree that this clip is an example of the need for deconfliction. However, it seems like there are two possible meanings of the word deconfliction, and it’s an example of the need for both of them:

Deconfliction – a process of de-escalating or avoiding a violent conflict.

The clip clearly shows how the situation should have been handled with a hand on the shoulder, and a calm “Sir, you’ll have to come with me,” rather than idiotic gunfire.

Deconfliction – a process of eliminating conflicting definitions or identifications.

The clip also shows the need for federal agents to know which of the idiots in the post office are federal idiots, which are civilian idiots, and which, if any, are civilian idiots for whom probable cause exists to arrest them.

However, it only illustrates this second definition if you accept it as normal and acceptable to have federal idiots escalating what should have been a peaceful situation by drawing guns when no clear threat of violence existed previously.

BF Skinner February 1, 2010 5:07 PM

@Bruce “I have no idea what a real Secret Service ID card looks like. Or an FBI card, for that matter.”

On my last interview with an OPM investigator I inspected her credential very carefully. Not that I thought it told me anything. I’d never seen one before or since and I remember a character in a Baer novel casually waving away the ID “knowing it could be made anywhere, by anyone for anything”.

Also once to gain admittance to an NSA presentation I provided first my agency CAC card (refused as it had the word “contractor” on it) and then my companies ID card (accepted – I don’t know why) which was a smart card but there wasn’t even a certificate in it (we just used them for proximity ID).

There was no real identification; only consequence. The agents (who were distributed and contracted) would call up the individual directly and arrange the interview. If you refused the interview you failed your clearance and lost your job.

We called OPM and asked for a list of valid investigators. They refused. Fair enough OPSEC. We then asked if we could validate the agent’s identity by calling their dispatch office. They refused and I can’t concieve of a reason why except maybe they don’t know who’s working for them.

But it seems to me that anyone with chutzpah could easily gain access to people through the clearance process and subject them to intense personal questions and gain enough data to find out who can be twisted.

Hal O'Brien February 2, 2010 6:30 PM

Actually, Math Anxiety Woman is a member of the world’s most powerful intelligence service, Sweden’s MUST, or Militära Underrättelse och Säkerhetstjänsten.

No, of course you haven’t heard of it. That’s why “säkerhets” means “secret.”


Curt Sampson February 5, 2010 2:51 AM

For what it’s worth, the (full) OED, New Edition (current up until somewhere around 1990) has no entry for “deconfliction.” “Confliction” (“The action of conflicting; conflicting condition”) has only four usage entries, from 1694, 1831, 1855, and 1868. If there was another usage in the next hundred years, it wasn’t found by editors, indicating it probably doesn’t exist.

While I’ve got no serious objection to coining new words where necessary, I’m not clear on what “deconfliction” gives us that “conflict prevention” doesn’t.

Clive Robinson February 5, 2010 6:02 AM

@ Curt Sampson,

“While I’ve got no serious objection to coining new words where necessary, I’m not clear on what “deconfliction” gives us that “conflict prevention” doesn’t.”

May I recomend George Orwells writings for an answer to help clarify.

Basically he recognised pre-WWII that the use of language to split a society up into ordained classes was a method of controlling people.

We see it most often with “Managment Speak”, usually most practiced by those who actualy have the least productive things to say.

In more recent times we have seen those with a political agenda using the same tactic of using either obscure or invented words and phrases in ways that are abnormal to common parlance in the hope of gaining advantage.

Such things as WMD and Terroristic have appeared on these pages of recent times.

Language naturaly evolves for instance,

“that, which is”
“that, that is”
“that, what is”

Only one of which sounded right to my parents and one more that was in common parlence when I was a student.

For instance “that what is” in common parlence in some parts these days grates on my ears 8)

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