MUNDANE MYSTERIES: The Origin of “Roger”

You’ve probably heard the term “Roger that”. It’s a widespread way of providing confirmation, whether that be between truckers on their CB radios, kids playing with walkie-talkies, or even folks talking face to face. But while it’s easy to use the phrase & understand what it means, have you ever wondered where it came from? Why do we say “Roger that”?

“Roger” arose from the phonetic alphabet utilized by military & aviation personnel during World War 2, when 2-way radios were the main form of communication. Operators needed crystal clear ways to spell things out with no room for misinterpretation. Some folks are more familiar with the current NATO version of the phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.), where Romeo is the word for “R”, but before that standard was adopted in 1957, the words were a tad different, and the word for “R” was “Roger.”

But the roots of using the word “Roger” as confirmation go back even further. In the Morse code days, when sending long messages was arduous, a useful shorthand was to respond with single, meaningful letters. Responding to a message with the letter “R,” for example, let the sender know their message had been received. Then, when two-way radio came along, that shorthand continued, but with the word “Roger” instead of just “R”.

Roger may have since been replaced with Romeo, but it was the widespread use of the two-ray radio during WWII that popularized the saying that we still use to this day.

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