Peter Funt: What Those Words Really Mean

From a Wall Street Journal commentary by Peter Funt headlined “‘Let’s Go Brandon’ and Other Codes”:

Staff at Disney World refer to a troublemaker as a “treasured guest.”…

Lawmakers know that a reference to “my friend” means “that jerk across the aisle.” Merchants are fond of using “convenience fee” as code for charges that are unfair and inconvenient.

In the “The Money Pit,”  Tom Hanks learns that when contractors say a job will take “about two weeks,” it means at least two months. In hospitals, a page for “Dr. Firestone” means there’s a fire in the building. At sea, “Code Oscar” indicates a person overboard. In the air, “Operation Rising Star” signals that a passenger has died.

In our office I could never understand why my assistant was so frequently asked about the weather. Seems her answers—cloudy, sunny, etc.—were code to describe my mood.

When my sister, Patricia, begins a sentence, “No offense, but,” we know she’s about to say something offensive. Some verbal coding is as simple as adding a single letter. If my wife calls out “Pete,” I’m fine, but when I hear “Peter,” I know I’m in trouble.

At a joke-tellers club, everyone already knew all the jokes. Members saved time by calling out jokes by number. When a member hollered, say, “14,” everyone laughed. “Twenty-two” brought even bigger laughs. Then a new member tried “22,” and there was silence. “What happened?” he asked. A veteran explained: “You didn’t tell it right.”

Peter Funt is author of “Self-Amused: A Tell-Some Memoir.”

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