Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Learn to Speak Pentagon, Lesson 2: "FYI/FYSA"

I could almost literally not be more surprised with the enthusiastic reaction to Lesson 1 of this series, both on Twitter and by email. People always like a peek behind the scenes, I guess, and language tells us a little something about the way organizations work (or, alternatively, don't). Nathan Hodge tweeted a great suggestion for our next edition (complete with illustrative transcript!), but I just wanted to dash off a quick one on my way out this afternoon and his takes a little more focused elaboration. So I instead took my inspiration from good buddy Ex, who just this afternoon tweeted:
@abumuqawama: Speaking Pentagon: @ works the issue for your personal S.A.
Yet another one that would scarcely have occurred to me had it not been pointed out, and as such perfect fodder for Lesson 2: "FYI/FYSA."

FYI/FYSA [eff why eye, eff why ess eh], abbr. For your information, for your situational awareness. "FYSA: I have your tasker and am working it"; "FYI/SA: Gulliver has another Learn to Speak Pentagon post up on the blog."

These two abbreviations are used interchangeably, most often as the introduction to email (particularly forwarded communications from a third party). Those who thoughtlessly swap the two make a grave mistake, however, because there is a fundamental difference in meaning. While each indicates "you should know about this, though I don't expect you to take action as a result," the latter expression carries an additional connotation: "I am a douchebag who has worked in the Pentagon too long to write like a normal human."

Ok, I'm being a bit judgey, aren't I? I'll cop to dropping this one into emails from time to time, and I think there is actually a distinct meaning: SA is somewhere in the uncertain quantum space between "for your information" and "for your action." As in this might pertain to you and it might not, but if I use "FYI" you might wrongfully conclude that you don't need to do anything. You know, keeping you in the loop. You can't say "FYI" to your boss, after all -- who the hell are you to tell him what he needs to know?! But if you just want the guy to be situationally aware... then it's like you're trying to keep him from getting surprised. That's good staff work!*

FYSA: In the next lesson, we'll learn the phrase "long pole in the tent." In the meantime, you can work these two until I pin the rose on you for Lesson 3.

*FYI: Everything in the paragraph preceding this notation is exculpatory narrative/possible bullshit intended to soothe my embarrassment at having been called out for using "FYSA" in an email to my girlfriend a few weeks ago.


  1. These are hilarious. Love 'em. More please!

  2. You should go into greater length on "chop," which you briefly mentioned in your last post. It simultaneously means what it sounds like--i.e. "edit"--along with "approval" or "concurrence." So, if I say, "Did you get Joint Staff chop on this?" it means both, did you get their edits, and did they sign off on what you sent them. You know, their chop.

    One that's always puzzled me is "tasker" or, worse, "tasking." What on earth is wrong with the simple word "task"?

  3. I mean, I can't even tell what "tasker" means - is it a staff aide? An email? A google calendar invite? Some bizarre enemy in Gears of War I haven't reached yet?

  4. I always liked OBE as in "Overtaken by Events."

  5. I found this because my boss forwarded me an email with "FYSA" as the only text. We don't work for the Penragon, by the way, so this plague is spreading. For all it meant in context, it may as well have been "Funny You Should Ask"...

    And don't even get me started on using "tasking" as a noun. It appears that anyone who wants to be somebody feels the need to drop this word around.

  6. One that I'd like to know the origin of is "Reclama" as used in response to a budget cut.

    1. It's like an appeal. A way of defending why it is that you really need that money in your budget.

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  8. Paint me a picture. That was always a good one.

  9. Wow. This crap website just wiped out my comment when I hit the "preview" button. NICE. Short, curt version, because I'm annoyed now:

    FYSA isn't a douchey version of FYI. The 'A' does not stand for action. The initialism stands for "For Your Situational Awareness." That's all. It's just FYI that somebody decided didn't sound military enough.

    I was in the Army for 8 years, 5 years in BDE and BN operations.