Monday, October 15, 2012

What is a "Panda Car"?

           Writing is an ever expanding experience. I learn many things and gain insights from the other bloggers on this blog as well as numerous writing sites. Sometimes knowledge comes from my own ignorance. I was reading an English mystery where one cat burglar said to his accomplice, "Oh-oh. Panda car. Duck!" What's a panda car and what has it to do with a "duck"?
            Research taught me that panda car is another name for a police car. The name is obvious; pandas have big areas of distinctive black and white fur and police cars have the same coloring via paint. While looking up panda car, I came across several sources that listed dialectic and slang terms for police cars and police officers. You might choose to use one of the following terms to make your story or novel more believable or fun. Many terms are used regionally so you will want to check references carefully.

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 refers to the red light atop police cars

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

---cruiser cars, squad cars, area cars, marked unit, chase cars, Tijuana taxi are common slang terms for black and whites, aka traditional police cars

---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 of Irish descent where Patrick is a common name and Irish were often policemen; the backs of horse drawn wagons were padded; pound wagon

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

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
                                            “He handles everything else.” from July/August 2008
                          "He takes care if everything else"  [Saturday Evening Post, 2008]

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)
---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 or smokey akin to the fire fighting bear Smokey The Bear

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

---bulls 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

---DRC is an acronym for dirty rotten copper

---Evil Knieval is slang for motorcycle police personnel; county mountie

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

---FBI called fibbies, first bunch of idiots by other law enforcement officials

---urban cowboys, or urban posses; mounties equal police on horseback

---twig pig is a forest ranger

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

---female officer is a mama bear, and derogatorily Miss Piggy or honey bear

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

---rollers, snippers (usually used by African Americans in North America

---The Thin Blue Line

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

---furry torpedo actually is a police dog

---shooflies are 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.


Debra Cashman said...

Loved this article. Being married to an officer/deputy I have learned many of these terms. I do have to tell you that you missed one my daughter coined when she was 8 years old. My husband had been an officer until we moved to Washington. My daughter was familiar with the term popo. In Washigton he became a sheriff's deputy. One day, there was a sheriff's car across the street and my daughter came running in and said: Dad, the sho-sho are across the street! :)

Jennifer Rova said...

Thanks, Debra. Loved the new phrase from your daughter...she is smart!