Have you ever used the word “Roger” to mean “understood”? Do you know why the name Roger is used in that way? Do you care? If you do care, you probably already know that it’s the international military code word for the letter “R”—which was in use between 1927 and 1957. As used in radio lingo, the letter “R” means “received.”
Beginning in 1913, all letters of the alphabet were assigned words to be used in order to avoid confusion of similar sounding letters. In addition to Roger, for example, Baker, George, Mike, and William were other names used to stand in for the letters with which they started. Dog, Fox, Hypo, Jig, King, Love, Pup, Quack, Sail, Tare, and X-Ray were some of the other words used.
Various branches of the military in the U. S. and other English-speaking countries had their own variations. Nowadays the alphabetic code is administered by the International Civil Air Organization, and almost all of those early designations have been replaced by new ones. Baker is now Bravo, George is Golf, William is Whiskey, Roger is Romeo, and so on down the line.
Of the words in use between 1927 and 1957, only Mike and X-Ray have endured through the years and are still in general use.
The Bard of Buffalo Bayou always hates to see the passing of the Old Guard, inasmuch as he is an Old Guardsman himself, and he has composed this lament, which he keens from the rooftops when there is a full moon:
Roger, William, George, and Baker
All have gone to meet their maker.
Sexy Roger’s Romeo,
For Baker, shout a bold Bravo!
George took up Golf (he’s getting frisky),
Teetotal William’s turned to Whiskey.
Oscar now won’t play the Oboe,
The King’s deposed, and some new Kilo
Reigns supreme, and that’s no joke.
A Yankee’s in, and that’s no Yoke.
Quebec at one time was a Quack,
Now Delta’s here, Dog won’t be back.
And do you think you can remember
When N was Nan and not November?
Love’s now Lima—does that mean
A Peruvian city or a bean?
They’ve changed a Tare into a Tango—
Where, oh where, did that old gang go?
Are there more changes down the pike?
Oh, please, let us hold on to Mike,
He’s been loyal, brave, and true—
And let Mike have an X-Ray, too!