Thursday, February 9, 2012

Slang Terms for Law Enforcement


I was recently reading an English mystery and the author talked about "panda cars." It took me a minute and absorbing the story content to realize he was talking about police cars. I did research on the term “panda cars.” This opened up a plethora of terms about law enforcement terms. While looking up panda car, I came across several sources that listed dialectic and slang terms for police cars and police officers used in the United States. You might choose to use one of the following terms to make your story or novel more believable or fun.

Alternate names for police cars:

---in England the slang term is “jam sandwiches” because their cars are white with an orange strip running through the middle, i.e., orange jam between two pieces of white bread

---cherry tops, bubble tops (red light atop police cars)

---spooks, bares (aka bears), no see ‘ums (unmarked cars)

---cruiser cars, squad cars, area cars, marked unit, chase cars, Tijuana taxi

---Black Maria (Mariah), Black Mary for police vans; origin unknown but it is thought it started in Great Britain where police carriages painted black and drawn by horses were used for transporting large numbers of prisoners or police officers. Often called Mother’s Heart as there is always “room for one more”

---paddy wagon; origin possibly from US immigrants where people of Irish descent were often policemen or the beds of horse drawn wagons were padded; pound wagon

---bear in the sky, bear in the air, spy in the sky, fly in the sky (police officers in helicopters)

Alternate names for lights on police cars:

---blue light specials, bubble gum lights, rotary lights, bar lights (most commonly used now), roof lights, flashers, turret lights, rotating lights

Alternate sounds for sirens:

---hi-lo (sound can be regulated to high or low), continuous, wails or yelps

Alternate names for police officers; (remember some of these are used by gang members, criminals, movie characters and are not to be perceived as racial slurs by the author)

---5-0 (from TV series (Hawaii 5-0 which got its name from Hawaii being the 50th state admitted to the union)

--pig, bacon, swine derived from the 1960’s and now popular again

---Barney (for Barney Fife in the Andy Griffith TV show); Bronze (from Mel Gibson movie “Mad Max”)

---bear (Smoky The Bear because of the uniform hats many police departments issue)

---berry, blueboy, boys in blue (because of the color of the uniforms)

---bulls (usually from police for railroad cars but often for regular police)

---city kitty, cherry toppers, copper

---do-do nutters, the do-dos (stereotype of policemen always stopping to buy doughnuts

---DRCs ( dirty rotten coppers)

---Evil Knieval or county mountie (motorcycle police personnel)

---New York’s (or other city) finest; flatfoot, the fuzz

---FBI (fibbies, first bunch of idiots)

---urban cowboys, or urban posses; mounties (police on horseback)

---LEO (law enforcement officer), local yokel

---mama bear, and derogatorily Miss Piggy, honey bear (female officer )

---Po-po or Po slang used by youth and gang artists

---rollers, snippers (usually used by blacks in North America)

---The Thin Blue Line

---disco pig (policeman driving in a police vehicle with lights flashing)

---furry torpedo (police dog)

---shoofly (undercover police investigating other police officers)

Of other interest to writers of crime are the codes used by police personnel to communicate via their radios. Research showed me that there are no standardized codes used across the United States. The meaning of a number such as 10-40 or 10-67 can vary from state to state. Check with the law enforcement department in the state in which your scene takes place.

www.urbandictionary.com; www.thefeedictionary.com; www.wikipedia.com

1 comment:

Mary Jane Honegger said...

This is the type of knowledge that helps readers relate to your writing and gives you credibility. That's a big 10-4 good buddy!