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The Secret Language of FX Drivers Has Been Decoded

Hint: When he says, “Uy, Harry Potter,” he isn’t taking you to Hogwarts.
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Transportation in the Philippines is a world of its own, and it has evolved to own its own language—but some are harder to understand than others. Gladys Matias, a student of Ateneo de Manila University, produced an entire 76-page study decoding the jargon used by FX Drivers during their two-way radio communications, and the results are fascinating.

The study involved nine FX drivers from the same UV Express Transport company, who work the forty-minute route from Robinson’s Novaliches to TriNoma Mall and back. Here are the three categories of jargon that the study found:

Numerical Radio Codes

These are standard in radio communication and include up to 144 terms made up of “10” and another number. Of the 144, the participants only recalled those that they use regularly in their jobs. 10-20 (exact location), 10-50 (accident), 10-57, (hit and run).

NATO Phonetic Alphabet

You’re probably familiar with “alpha,” or “bravo.” The NATO Phonetic Alphabet is also the “International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet,” often used for spelling over the radio. Code words are assigned to each letter of the alphabet. However, the FX drivers don’t use the phonetic alphabet to spell out words—rather, they seem to have figured out a way to only use the first letters of what they mean to say and still understand one another. For example, when someone says “Charlie Foxtrot,” he’s referring to the letters “C” and “F”, which they all understand as “counterflow,” and if someone says, “Juliet,” there’s a jeepney around.

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And the Rest of the Secret Jargon

While they’ve picked up on the first two categories, which are based on existing communication systems, other codes have naturally developed in places where codes are needed. These words may be the least obvious to the outsider. “Harry Potter” for example, aren’t words from the NATO phonetic alphabet, but they follow the same train of thought: “H” and “P”, for “highway patrol.” “Matic”, which you’ve probably heard before, stands for “automatic” and evolved to mean “clear” or “continuous.”

The rest of the codes are almost like riddles—stupidly obvious once you’ve figured it out. “Sniper”? The dreaded traffic enforcer. “Titanic”? The bus! “Touchdown”? The victory of the dropoff. For a group of guys whose job involves sitting in heavy traffic for the most part of the day, it’s nice to know they have a sense of humor.

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About The Author
Nina Unlay
Nina Unlay is pursuing an MA in Journalism. She used to be the Features Editor of GRID magazine.
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