Earlier today I was doing Merl Reagle's crossword and one of the clues was "Fraud fighting Fed." The answer turned out to be "T-Man," being short for "Treasury Man." So, this got me thinking...

Though the slang term "G-Man" is short for "Government-Man," it seems exclusively used to describe FBI agents. I think I understand why this is the case (given the origin of the term and its subsequent dramatization in popular culture).

However, many departments within the U.S. Government fight organized crime and conduct criminal investigations. With that in mind, can, for example, a CIA operative be considered a G-Man? Or a Secret Service agent?

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    "G-Man" is quite obsolete. It is not used in the United States. There was a time when it was a common phrase, but no more. Likewise "T-Man". Have you been watching old American movies? Their slang had to pass the censors, you know. – John Lawler May 26 '14 at 2:44
  • @JohnLawler Though it's somewhat archaic, it is used in the U.S. I've heard it used and I'm 24 years old. – njboot May 26 '14 at 6:48

You note a reasonable argument for why "G-Man" might apply to any government agent.

However the term is dated and anyone who does understand it will expect "G-Man" to refer to an FBI agent.

I do have some experience with abuse of the term since my mother thinks it's funny to apply it to any government employee. In my experience people conclude that if she's not referring explicitly to FBI agents she must be referring to federal government agents engaged in a similar role: I.e., plain-clothes field law enforcement. So this does not cause too much confusion if it includes, for example, Secret Service or postal inspectors. But spies or SEC investigators are not typically contemplated.

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