How to Talk on Walkie Talkie like a Pro

Featured image of brother and sister playing with walkie talkies

Those that doubt the awesomeness of walkie talkies simply did not get a chance to experience them as children. They can be invaluable tools to share secrets, plan out the day of adventures and devise a walkie talkie lingo that is used exclusively by the inner circle of friends. However, many kids will also be interested to learn about the standardized walkie talkie phrases used among people in the English speaking world. These phrases retain their usefulness into adulthood should your profession demand the communication over walkie talkies, or simply if you need to use this method of communication privately, for this reason, or the other.

The most commonly used phrases

Communicating over walkie talkies never gets old. The new iterations of devices are constantly refined and the ‘cleanliness’ of the communication over this device, an effect that is achieved largely thanks to the tactile utility of the button, is palpably enticing – especially for kids that use it as a tool to devise inventive games. A sense of convenience reverberates across countless jobs and professions, and you’ll notice that even the most skeptical individuals slowly give in to the catchy phrases and walkie talkie codes. Of course, there are several short phrases that are used more frequently than others. For example, you have almost certainly heard catchy liners such as ‘Roger’, ‘Do you copy?’, ‘Over and out’ and ’10-4’ in countless films and TV shows that deal in police and military topics. However, they are only the small tip of a very big iceberg.

The following phrases are arranged according to their natural (chronological) sequence in the walkie talkie transmission:

Breaker 1-9. – I want to initiate communication.

Do you copy? – Can you hear me?

Affirmative. – Yes.

Roger. – I understand you.

Negative. – No.

10-20? / What’s your 20? – Where are you located?

What’s your handle? – What’s your transmission nickname?

10-4. – Okay.

Over. / Over and out. – Let’s wrap up the transmission.  

Why such phrases?

As you can probably notice, some phrases – such as replacements for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – are longer and more contrived than their simplest iterations. Other phrases have a noticeably punchy rhythm. The reason behind this is fairly easy to understand: the signal between devices is not always ideal, and it is quite common for walkie talkie users to encounter signal interferences. When these phrases are put into practice, it is significantly easier to understand what your correspondent is saying, thus rendering the transmission productive and brisk in spite of the noise that typically accompanies interferences. They should not be too short – like ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – because they can end up getting lost in the noise, but they should also not be too long because it defeats the purpose of walkie talkie codes – which is efficiency. In cases of truly poor signal, you should give your correspondent heads up.

10-1. – This means that you have a bad signal and that you are receiving poorly.

10-27. – Follows ’10-1’ as the logical next step: signaling that you are moving to a different channel.

Radio check. – You are testing the signal strength.

Got your ears on? – Are you on the air right now and listening?

Read you loud and clear! – The signal is strong and I can hear you well!

All of these phrases have appeared and retained their importance long before the age of the internet as a crucial part of maintaining public safety through police and military work. Since walkie talkie communication was typically used by people ‘on a mission’ or those that are performing important tasks, the development of the lingo was strictly utilitarian in nature. Those phrases that had a clear purpose, coupled with the aforementioned efficiency and brevity, were the ones that survived.

Image of children talking on walkie talkies

The great ‘enigma’ of 10 codes

Apart from ‘Breaker 1-9’, the most frequent phrases you’ll hear over walkie talkie will begin with a number ten. This ubiquitous number is then followed by another number which is meant to denote a particular message from a long list of phrases, including the ones almost exclusively used by the police. As has been noted above, ‘10-20’, ’10-1’, ’10-4’ and ’10-27’ are the most common ones.

Other notable examples include:

10-2. – Receiving Well.

10-3. – Stop Transmitting.

10-6. – Busy, Stand By.

10-9. – Repeat Message.

10-23. – Stand by.

10-44. – I have a message for you.

10-100. – Need to go to the Bathroom.

The extensive list of other 10 codes can be found here.

While the walkie talkie lingo may seem to be overwhelming at first, especially if you have never been exposed to it before, it is just like any nomenclature of phrases. It is not exactly an impenetrable realm of medical terms. Since the need for accessibility is of paramount importance in order to get professionals prepped to communicate efficiently, brevity and ease of pronunciation were a crucial part of assembling the walkie-talkie phrases. After all, the children with the right enthusiasm can learn at any time!

Author: Mary Lynn Holden
Author: Mary Lynn Holden

Proud mom and stepmom to an adorable bunch of kids aged 7 and up. Deeply appreciates three things in life: the help of older siblings in the house, texts on parenting, and strong coffee. Shares her stories and experiences in order to help others navigate the unpredictable waters of parenting.

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