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December 29, 2011 9:10 PM   Subscribe

At the dinner table we were talking about code phrases to self identify belonging to a specific group that are used in public (cruise ships, bars etc...) such as "being friends with Bill W" or "friends of Dorothy" for members of AA and lgbt. Are there any more examples that you can think of?
posted by saradarlin to Human Relations (80 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you have stairs in your house?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:16 PM on December 29, 2011 [23 favorites]


Freemasons (and other similar secret societies, such as the Knights of Columbus) have a ton of them, from code phrases to gestures to handshakes -- and there really are Masonic handshakes that an outsider wouldn't even notice, rather than the ostentatious fraternity-type things you think of when you hear "secret handshake."

You also hear cops referring to whether someone is "on the job."
posted by Etrigan at 9:17 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Member of the tribe" or just "MOT" for Jews.

"A friend of ours" for made guys in the mafia (as opposed to "a friend of mine" if you were introducing a civilian).
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:17 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Jerry's Kids" was a way to describe Deadheads. "I'm one of Jerry's Kids."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:19 PM on December 29, 2011


"Family" -- gay or lesbian.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:19 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Is there no help for the widow's son" is one from Freemasonry that folks who have read From Hell will recognize. Definitely MOT for Jews.
posted by jessamyn at 9:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I use "friend of Jessamyn" as a marginally more subtle way to ask if someone reads Metafilter than "Are you from the internet?".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:22 PM on December 29, 2011 [77 favorites]


Are you a turtle?
posted by drlith at 9:24 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: ""Jerry's Kids" was a way to describe Deadheads. "I'm one of Jerry's Kids.""

Another associated with the Grateful Dead is "Wharf Rat". While the name of one of their songs, it signifies a Deadhead who is living alcohol and drug free now. If someone told me they were a Wharf Rat, I would assume they are also "friends with Bill" (not Clinton).
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:34 PM on December 29, 2011


There's the lesbian code by Alix Dobkin.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


R U?

:pronounced 'are you'?

The proper response is 'on-on.'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I thought "Jerry's kids" referred to people with muscular dystrophy.
posted by dfriedman at 9:37 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Don't forget about Aunt Flo.
posted by carmicha at 9:46 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Jehovah's Witnesses are "in the truth". Non-Witnesses are "in the world".
posted by chrchr at 9:49 PM on December 29, 2011


There are definitely some shibboleths that apply, I think. (Also a great West Wing episode.) And dog whistles, too.
posted by argonauta at 10:07 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The narwhal bacons at midnight.

For the Reddit community.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I run into a mefite I know when I am with a non-mefite, I am going to say, "she does not know Matt Haughey".
posted by mlis at 10:22 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Do you smoke?"

"Cigarettes? No."
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:37 PM on December 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


The Jerry's Kids for the Dead was an ironic takeoff on the muscular dystrophy thing, but also a reference to the myth that Jerry Garcia had fathered dozens (hundreds?) of children, all over the country that nobody knew about, not even the kids themselves, but they would be naturally drawn to the Dead through some kind of stoner magic. Everybody could imagine they were secretly special, because they might be one of Jerry's Kids.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:55 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could someone please explain, "Do you have stairs in your house?"

Great question!

The closest I can get here is if someone slips the phrase "Secret Squirrel" into a conversation I know they are a big Eddie Izzard fan, and therefore, an instant friend! (Yes, this has happened more than once in my life:)

Interestingly, a quick peruse of Wikipedia and Google to add a link do not back me up on this, which is funny, because it's happened at least 3 times and it's always been a reference to a stand-up bit by Eddie Izzard and NOT a reference to the Hanna Barbara cartoon character or a "secret agent."

Hmm.
posted by jbenben at 11:01 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you have stairs in your house?
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:10 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


jbenben, every time I've heard 'secret squirrel' its a reference to shadowy secret-agent , cloak and dagger, spook and Spec Ops stuff.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:13 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Clampers have a bunch of silly ones. Here's a wikipedia article about them, but I would bet that any "secret" information mentioned is a bunch of hooey posted by a Clamper to trip people up.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:16 PM on December 29, 2011


I use "friend of Jessamyn" as a marginally more subtle way to ask if someone reads Metafilter than "Are you from the internet?".

That would have been handy at the recent IRL meetup I went to. Instead, I awkwardly walked over to the largest group in the bar and said: "Metafilter?" or something like that.
posted by asnider at 11:16 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


What about the metafilter meetup "Are you a friend of Matt Haughey?" Or, "I'm from the internet."
posted by small_ruminant at 11:17 PM on December 29, 2011


Haven't heard it much of it lately (I've been a bit out of the world but it may have just got too dad-joke to be used anymore) but there used to be a lot of gay food related ones around here. Probably started with references to chicken or twink(ie)s for blokes who were into younger looking guys but I've heard "I eat rice" from someone who's exclusively into Asian men, the development of that into "like my potatoes" from an Asian guy who's into westerners, and so on.

Then (unrelated) there's "out" and "in" for prisoners and ex-prisoners catching up with each other or dealing with guards/cops/social workers. The meaning's obvious at the seedier end of the bar, but "Trev been out recently?" or "Jim in?" usually won't get noticed or understood by the blokes in suits at the other end.
posted by Ahab at 12:01 AM on December 30, 2011


"On the team" meaning queer.
posted by Gender is the Soul's Pajamas at 12:18 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also "in the program" meaning in AA or other Anonymous fellowship.
posted by Gender is the Soul's Pajamas at 12:20 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have to pronounce it "Matt Hog-hay" though, for maximum internet-to-IRL hilarity.
posted by rhizome at 12:59 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nerd culture is fraught with this. There's the correct usage of 1337, Tengwar/Noldor, Klingon, "frak", movie quotes, and discussions of towels and where to bring them.

My friends and family know somebody is as into Star Trek as we are when they can correctly put the following quotes into a conversation in appropriate/humorous contexts: "I am not a merry man!", "Engage!", "Mon capitan!", and "I'm a _____, not a ______!". (These are just a few of the many gems generated by the entirety of Star Trek.)
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:12 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I keel you!!! is good for a laugh.
posted by juifenasie at 1:25 AM on December 30, 2011


I was fascinated to learn that the bandana sticking out of my friend's back pocket was of actual significance.

It also seriously made me wonder about that Bruce Springsteen album cover.
posted by MesoFilter at 2:09 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


there used to be a lot of gay food related ones around here. Probably started with references to chicken or twink(ie)s for blokes who were into younger looking guys but I've heard "I eat rice" from someone who's exclusively into Asian men, the development of that into "like my potatoes" from an Asian guy who's into westerners, and so on.

I just watched Spartacus, and there's a longish scene with Laurence Olivier asking Tony Curtis whether he likes oysters and/or snails, presumably because they couldn't make an explicit reference to homosexuality.

The closest I can get here is if someone slips the phrase "Secret Squirrel" into a conversation I know they are a big Eddie Izzard fan, and therefore, an instant friend! (Yes, this has happened more than once in my life:)

Surely Secret Squirrel just means this guy? I use the phrase, and I don't know its connection with Eddie Izzard.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:48 AM on December 30, 2011


"Member of the tribe" or just "MOT" for Jews.

Sometimes expressed as "Tribe?"
posted by callmejay at 3:13 AM on December 30, 2011


Friendly meaning a pot smoker: "Hey, this new guy coming to the party, John, is he...friendly?"
posted by MrMoonPie at 4:17 AM on December 30, 2011


A friend of mine was once asked by a stranger if she was "living the life," which in context was supposed to mean lesbian.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:45 AM on December 30, 2011


People who speak Esperanto have a joke about being from Esperantujo, a fictitious Esperanto-speaking country that sort of materializes in different places when people get together and speak it. It's more of an in-joke than a code phrase, but references to it wouldn't make sense to outsiders.
posted by nangar at 4:56 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


yeah, Secret Squirrel has no link to Eddie Izzard as far as I'm concerned.
posted by alan2001 at 5:22 AM on December 30, 2011


The closest I can get here is if someone slips the phrase "Secret Squirrel" into a conversation I know they are a big Eddie Izzard fan, and therefore, an instant friend!

Quoi?

I'm a huge Eddie Izzard fan and Secret Squirrel doesn't ring any bells whatsoever. Now, "how I long for a grapefruit!" on the other hand...
posted by lydhre at 5:37 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I grok it" tells you pretty definitively who's read Heinlein in the room.
If I recall, "I'm a bear" means I'm a gay man who *totally* digs hairy men.
posted by Ys at 5:37 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You also hear cops referring to whether someone is "on the job."

In the UK at least, the expression is "IN the job". "On the job" is a euphemism with various different meanings and you'd normally need a bit of context to identify which was intended.
posted by genesta at 5:42 AM on December 30, 2011


Oh, an associated bit of trivia:- the in-house newspaper for the Metropolitan (London) Police is called "The Job".
posted by genesta at 5:45 AM on December 30, 2011


I love Fourth Estate for journos.
posted by taff at 6:07 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


As I understand it, firefighters (or at least FDNY) also are "on the job."
posted by firei at 6:09 AM on December 30, 2011


Along the lines of "Aunt Flo," see also "Shark Week." As in, "It's Shark Week and I'm gonna eat this box of cookies."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:39 AM on December 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


"Bag o' corn, friend!" for Never Not Funny Fans.

T-Shirt here.

Official show notes from the spawning episode. (Self-link)
posted by The Deej at 6:53 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I grok it" tells you pretty definitively who's read Heinlein in the room.

Not anymore.
posted by headnsouth at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


There is a word related to this idea - "shibboleth" - which may aid you in your search.
posted by fake at 6:59 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I recall, "I'm a bear" means I'm a gay man who *totally* digs hairy men.

Not exactly, "bears" are the large and hairy ones, not the people who are into them.
posted by soelo at 7:30 AM on December 30, 2011


Walking the Room fans can identify themselves by being a cuddlah or referring to the odd hobotang-like behavior. Clown from the neck down, yo.

For a time "Hikeeba" might be the mark of a MSTie but I don't know if that's true anymore.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:00 AM on December 30, 2011


"Stephen!"
"...just coming!"

for fans of the Adam & Joe radio show or podcast.
posted by capnsue at 9:04 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"On the game" for prostitutes. I have heard areas popular with streetwalkers and johns called "the talent show." In our group of friends, going to a strrip joint is called "going to the ballet."
posted by DarlingBri at 9:05 AM on December 30, 2011


I also say "secret squirrel" occasionally and I don't have any idea who this Eddie Izzard fellow is.
posted by pullayup at 9:08 AM on December 30, 2011


I have a cunning plan...
posted by catatethebird at 9:08 AM on December 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


If we're counting podcasts now, fans of the Sklar brothers' podcast Sklarboro Country can identify themselves with a hearty cry of "Henderson!" (or even "Osbalidston!"). Fans of the TBTL podcast have too many in-jokes to count, but will often refer to themselves as a "ten" (as in "this show has tens of listeners").
posted by mhum at 9:41 AM on December 30, 2011


Do you party?
posted by desjardins at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Restaurant people are "in the industry".
posted by blargerz at 10:31 AM on December 30, 2011


No 4:20 yet?

I concur with soelo about "bear". I know not because I'm gay, but because my back hair belies the fact that I'm "member of the Tribe".
posted by humboldt32 at 11:11 AM on December 30, 2011


"The lifestyle," "the community," and "what it is that we do" (abbreviated WIITWD, my least favorite acronym ever) for a few different sexual subcultures depending on who you're talking to: the latter is mainly kink, the former two might also mean swinging/poly/non-monogamy.

(I also don't think Secret Squirrel is an Izzard reference. I totally just had an Izzard-shibboleth exchange with a new friend, though! I appended "...like you do" to the end of a sentence, new friend looked at me sideways and said "...ciao?" while making the moped-riding hand gesture, and we were both like HAHAHA YES.)
posted by clavicle at 11:24 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


do you flag to the left or to the right?
posted by desjardins at 11:28 AM on December 30, 2011


(In addition to "like you do" for Mister Izzard, I'd also recommend "Le sanj es sur le branch" or "Jam!" Perhaps "I'm covered in bees!" Though after watching the most recent Big Fat Quiz of the Year, I might have to add "Cooked his own spleen." )
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:10 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Definitely 'family' for various forms of queerness (how straight people can be oblivious to this in conversation, I don't know--maybe I know some seriously oblivious people).

I just watched Spartacus, and there's a longish scene with Laurence Olivier asking Tony Curtis whether he likes oysters and/or snails, presumably because they couldn't make an explicit reference to homosexuality.

I believe this didn't make it past the censors in the original release and was eventually put back in for video. (Really, I mention this not because I'm that pedantic, but as an excuse to mention that my high school Latin teacher paused the film and spent ages trying to talk around the point long enough for us to get the scene.)
posted by hoyland at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2011


This thing of ours.
posted by msali at 3:59 PM on December 30, 2011


Members of the 2+2 forums (the primary poker strategy forums on the net) use "sup bro" and "Where does the brown trout sleep?".
posted by dfan at 6:33 PM on December 30, 2011


Sometimes friends of mine denote lesbians as "Lebanese," which can get confusing in particular contexts and also if you're having that discussion near a person that isn't in on the joke, and actually then believes that said female is from Lebanon.

Izzard-wise, "Do you have a flag?" is an unfailing go-to, as well.
posted by buzzkillington at 9:50 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if this is still the case, but in the early days of shirt.woot.com if you saw someone wearing a woot shirt you were supposed to tell them "boss shirt, boss!"
posted by dirtdirt at 9:53 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I worked with some guys up in Toronto, they'd tell their wives that we wanted to see the ballet.

Make that the "fun ballet", aka the strip clubs.
posted by notsnot at 11:33 PM on December 30, 2011


Also for Jews: Lantzman

More along the lines of Aunt Flo: Crimson Tide or Crimson Wave. Although the best one I've heard is "prom night for Carrie."
posted by SisterHavana at 12:49 AM on December 31, 2011


The only reference to Secret Squirrel I've ever heard is the cartoon.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:40 AM on December 31, 2011


Interesting answers, I had to google many of them! Thanks!!
posted by saradarlin at 11:31 PM on January 1, 2012


Another Masonic one: from whence came you?
posted by mattbucher at 8:05 AM on January 3, 2012


Members of the CIA refer to their employer as "The Company."
posted by pts at 8:45 AM on January 3, 2012


And NSA people all say they work at Ft. Meade.
posted by zabuni at 1:30 PM on January 3, 2012


If you "roll out the Carnarble Wagon" on Fridays, you're undoubtedly from Chicago and a fan of the Roe Conn Show.
posted by MsMolly at 1:58 PM on January 5, 2012


I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Wanna squeeze the wheeze? Many people like to.
posted by hal9k at 2:08 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll throw a little "Be seeing you" here and there sometimes, when saying good bye, or as a valediction in an email sometimes to see if someone is as big of nerd as me, and disciple of The Prisoner (the original with Patrick McGoohan, dammit! RIP.)

Of course, waiting until you're saying good bye is sort of counter-productive, but err...yeah.
posted by Skygazer at 7:16 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the early 80s many Deadheads asked if you were "on the bus." I never heard 4:20 until the early 90s. Jerry's Kids was a popular Heads' sticker but I never heard it as "code"
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 7:11 PM on February 16, 2012


And NSA people all say they work at Ft. Meade.
I've heard "I work between Baltimore and DC."
posted by knile at 4:40 AM on April 4, 2012


In the early 80s many Deadheads asked if you were "on the bus."

I thought that was a Merry Pranksters/"Furthur" bus reference...so says Tom Wolfe.

My family may not be alone in using "on the A-Team" to mean a person with autism, when for some reason we don't want to say the word.
posted by homelystar at 11:37 AM on July 26, 2012


Homelystar's answers reminds me: has anyone suggested bats for the home team, bats for the away team and switch hitter?
posted by DarlingBri at 3:40 PM on July 26, 2012


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