Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Code of Code Names

May was a rather dramatic month. Batku called it a day. Guruji and Jack dragged the Helicopter down. Raavan and Shining glittered but didn’t strike gold. Chashma looked listless. Model didn’t live up to his billing. Dada was caught out. Rotru, Mowgli and Kavala were jailed. While Monkey and Pagadi danced away to victory.

If that sounded like a load of gibberish to you, it obviously means that you haven’t kept pace with the bookie code names conceived for IPL 6.  In case you’re curious: Rotru means cry baby and it can only refer to India’s most famous slap victim. The rest of the names are fairly decipherable once you get the drift.

Employed first by the military during the World Wars, clandestine euphemisms or cryptonyms have come a long way.  The code names today rarely reek of seriousness. A tinge of humour is the flavour of our times.

Sample these from the United States Secret Service: George Dubya Bush, not exactly known for holding his drink, was given the ‘Tumbler’ moniker. Dick Cheney, a lover of fishing and spinmeister par excellence, earned the ‘Angler’ tag. Barack Obama was called ‘Renegade’ which literally means ‘Christian turned Muslim’. And Richard Nixon, best known for the late night break-ins into the Watergate hotel, was fortuitously named as ‘Searchlight’!

Companies are equally funny when it comes to code names. When Microsoft employees were surreptitiously referring to Windows 95 as ‘Chicago’, the cheeky folks at Apple called their competing product ‘Capone’ after Al Capone, the mafia boss who tormented Chicago. Likewise, spunky Facebook has picked ‘Buffy’ for its secret new phone. ‘Buffy’ as everyone knows is the ‘vampire slayer’. The allusion here is to the blood sucking evil Google!

Not every one fancies a funny code name. Google has a glad eye for desserts - which explains why they chose Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo (Frozen Yoghurt) Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich for the various avatars of Android. Mozilla has a thing for national parks. Intel, Microsoft and Blackberry love place names. Mac OS X has a fixation for animals. ‘What about Indian companies?’ you may ask. Well, our covert names are among the world’s best-kept secrets.