Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Codes, beautiful codes

I was listening to NPR on the way to pick up Little A, and there was a report on police codes. Yuh know, "10-4, good buddy." And I guess a plethora of other "10" codes that I didn't know about. Apparently, the fed has decided that all police stations/fire stations, etc... must fade out the use of these codes within the next year, or they will no longer receive federal funding. The report unexpectedly caught me. I couldn't help but to have a little pre-nostalgic moment when I realized that soon there would be a generation that didn't get "10-4". It's the same silly nostalgia I have when I realize that most people do not recognize "Capisce?" anymore. There's just not enough MASH.
Though I understand that it might be useful to use plain language in certain circumstances, when I think about some drawling southern police officer rambling on about the current situation while the current situation worsens, I can't help but think that the fed is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Mightn't be better to standardize the coding instead of tossing it out?
Coding gives us a common vocabulary, complete with nuances and connotations. For instance, when trying to plan this "date" with RS, I initially suggested coffee. He agreed, but was acting strange, so I asked him why. He said, "Well, I don't want to make it any big deal." And so I informed him that coffee is basically the code word for "not a big deal." Of course then he turned it into a huge deal, complete with picnic and walks along the river, but I'm losing the point. Though it may not always translate across generations, or other groups, coding lets us know very precisely what we mean. Without futzing around with all the details, we can transmit, very easily what we need to transmit. And even when we need to translate, it can be much quicker to say, "Coffee is the code word for not a big deal," than to go into the specifics of every type of outing and its potential of being a "big deal." Similarly, I don't think we need police officers who are caught up in descriptions. I'd much rather know they said something, in 2 seconds flat, and that more help is on the way, end of story. Sometimes there just needs to be an end to the story.


Anonymous roo said...

My parents were very upset to hear this news, by the way. They say that cops will probably keep using them, though-- they're too ingrained not to.

6:43 PM  

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