Secrets in Plain Sight: 40 Little-Known Codes All Around Us

In today’s world, the use of secret codes and ciphers may seem like something from a bygone era, but in reality, they are still very much present in our daily lives. From encrypted messaging apps to hidden symbols in art, secret codes are all around us. They are used by governments and organizations to protect sensitive information, and by individuals to keep their personal communications private. In this article, we will explore the current uses of secret codes.

21"Bring Roses"

In online dating ads, if the girl mentions to bring roses, it is code for money and means she's a prostitute.



Any US aircraft using the code name "FLYNET" indicates that an aircraft is transporting a nuclear emergency team or a disaster control team to the location of a potential or actual nuclear accident or an accident involving chemical agents or hazardous materials.

23Code Pink

Code Pink

Code Pink in some hospitals can mean a missing baby, and the initiation of an all-staff response.



If you hear a flight attendant say "deadhead," they're referring to a crew member who is on duty, but is heading home after the flight.

257500 Hijack Code

7500 Hijack Code

"7500!" You never want your pilot to say or signal this number. It means the plane has been hijacked. Because the meaning of this code has become pretty widespread, many airlines have installed a button or other device in the cockpit that silently switches the plane’s transponder to 7500

26Code White

Code White

Code White' inside a Walmart indicates an accident or incident that requires attention. Once a 'Code White' announcement is made, a Walmart Manager rushes to the area or department where the issue had occurred.

27Rainbow's End

Rainbow's End

The euphemisms "Rose Cottage" and "Rainbow's End" are sometimes used in British hospitals to enable discussion of death in front of patients, the latter mainly for children. A similar phrase used is: "transferred to ward 13", as hospitals in the UK routinely do not have such a ward.

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28Code Adam

Code Adam

"Code Adam", is a system at several American retailers that's activated in the event of a missing child. It is named after Adam Walsh (who was murdered) son of John Walsh, former host of America's Most Wanted.

29Dr. Strong

Dr. Strong

American hospitals may make an announcement calling for "Mr. [or Dr.] Strong", as code to alert orderlies that a patient or visitor at a stated location is in need of physical restraint.

30Motorcyclist Code

Motorcyclist Code

When a motorcyclist taps his helmet it means there are cops up ahead.

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  1. RE: Fact# 1 – Inspector Sands: Football stadiums use it too. But most regularly attending fans know what it is and tend to ignore it. Because 99.9% of the time, it’s a random empty box from a concession stand (aka not a bomb), or someone smoking in the toilets (aka not a fire).

  2. RE: Fact# 11 – Friend of Bill W.: Bill W founded AA and established the framework for other groups that understand the struggles of the addict.

    People enjoy discrediting him by claiming he requested whisky on his deathbed. Indeed, he did. But that is precisely the point: every day of that man’s life was a struggle to abstain from alcohol, and when it no longer mattered, he succumbed. This is the strength of addiction, which only addicts understand. AA does not heal you, as that is impossible; instead, it helps you refrain from using alcohol day by day.

  3. RE: Fact# 2 – 437737 Code: I noticed in a girl’s profile that she has 437737 cats and thought, “That number must have some significance.” According to Urban Dictionary, that number on a keypad spells herpes.

  4. RE: Fact# 4 – Jim Wilson: The majority of airlines transport human remains in cargo holds. As a former ramp attendant and luggage handler, I’ve dealt with a number of similar situations. There are regulations regarding how they are handled, loaded, and stored. For instance, no luggage may be packed over the remains, and if at all possible, the box should be placed in its own portion of the hold.

  5. RE: Fact# 3 – Treasured Guests: Everything sounded fine until “White Powder Alert”… sounds even sketchier…. like some Anthrax sh*t or something….

    • My grandfather was a HUGE Disney fan. He had two demands before his death.
      1. He desired that his remains be spread in discreetly across Disneyland.
      2. He was opposed to being cremated.

  6. RE: Fact# 3 – Treasured Guests: When someone shoplifts, they are referred to as a “Customer” rather than a “Guest.” Disney security is some sort of Orwellian nonsense, as they can track you by your shoes and are really discreet.

    My friend used to work for them, and he told me that a favorite trick is to “flat tire” someone, and when they bend down to fix their shoe, you “apologize,” flash your security badge, and whisk them away KGB-style to the back rooms/tunnels where they’re usually trespassed and escorted off the property after signing a contract stating that Disney will not press shoplifting charges as long as they maintain an NDA and never mention it.

    He stated that Disney is highly hesitant to bring charges owing to the potential for negative publicity. They would rather fire you and have you sign the NDA.

    • I can 100% confirm this. As a child, I was there with a friend who thought it would be a good idea to shoplift some keychains. Moments later, as we walked through a crowd, several of us became exhausted, and uniformed men quietly instructed the rest of us to notify our teacher (was a school trip). No other guest in the vicinity noticed.

      However, they did indeed press charges, and I believe the child was required to pay a fine or perform community service.

      Disney Gestapo is real, yo.

    • Everyone should use the shoe method while tracking a suspicious person or searching for a lost child. Individuals can change their clothes, but typically, they do not change shoes.

  7. RE: Fact# 8 – House in Virginia: The general public believes this reinforces prejudice against HIV-positive individuals. They are oblivious to the fact that we are not in a hospital room. We are in public. The majority of patients do not want us to announce to the world that they have HIV, hepatitis, or anything similar.

    We are also required by law to keep this information confidential.

  8. RE: Fact# 16 – Operation Bright Star: The last cruise I was on reported having two morgue slots.

    Therefore, if more than two people died during a cruise, they would have to store the bodies in the freezer with the steaks (they did not specify this. I deduced this part).

    We received a tour of the meat freezer. We were denied a tour of the morgue. I believe both are similar though.

    • Actually they make a day of launching the extra corpse out of a cannon into the ocean. Lots of streamers, confetti, the whole thing.

    • I was once told a story by a ship’s officer during a cruise. I took him at his word, but I’ll admit here that I have no means of validating the story I’m repeating.

      Apparently, on a previous Atlantic crossing (from Europe to the United States), a large number of elderly people (cruise ships already have a high average age, but this one was significantly older) purchased tickets. Many of them were reminiscing about the days when this was the standard method of travel between Europe and America.

      Well, several of them died throughout the journey. The morgue had more than 2 spaces, but it was inadequate, and they were too far from land for the most of the cruise for a rescue chopper to be dispatched.

      Apparently, they put out all the ice cream they had one night, and the employees devoured it. Any uneaten ice cream was discarded because the freezer where it had been stored was already full of dead bodies when the ice cream was removed.

    • Item 86 was their flagship product. Obviously, that was a Delmonico steak. It is essentially a T-bone with the closest ratio of strip meat to tender meat on the entire short loin. Each side of beef will yield no more than two or three steaks that qualify as Delmonico steaks.

      At the Delmonico steakhouse, the Delmonico steak was always in high demand, but due to the law of supply and demand, there were never enough Delmonico steaks for the amount of people entering the restaurant. They were perpetually out of Item 86. They ran out of it so frequently that it was discontinued whenever they ran out of something else. As a result of the original Delmonico’s location in New York, many employees who worked there went on to work at other restaurants in the city, and the word evolved from there.

  9. RE: Fact# 38 – Tanker Trucks Codes: I was once driving behind a truck on the highway the other day and didn’t recognize 2448. Turns out its code for molten sulfur!

    • I keep the orange OSHA UN number guide in my car so I can look those numbers up. It’s pretty fascinating what’s on the roads these days. And also terrifying when you see people cut off trucks hauling concentrated Hydrogen Fluoride. Hydrofluoric acid in one of if not the most powerful acids in the world. It can melt glass. It has the added bonus of reacting with the calcium in your bones causing them to breakdown! Just a drop of it will go right through your skin into your bloodstream and will shut down your nervous system.

    • Other fun stuff:

      1070 Nitrous Oxide

      1076 Phosgene

      1170 Ethyl Alcohol

      1197 Flavoring Extracts, liquid

      1226 Cig Lighters

      1324 Film, nitrocellulouse based

      1327 Hay/Straw contaminated with oil

      1344 Picric Acid

      1374 Fish scrap

      1381 Phosphorus, under water

      1614 Hydrogen Cyanide

      1693 Tear Gas

      1700 Tear Gas grenades

      1798 Aqua Regia

      1867 Self lighting Cigarettes

      1957 Deuterium

      2016 Ammo, poisonous

      2028 Bombs, smoke, non-explosive w/ corrosive liqid

      2447 Molten Phosphorous

      2810 Sarin / Tabun / VX

      2910-2919 Radioactive

      3306 compressed Gas, Toxic, Flammable, Corrosive.

      3353 air bag inflators

      9278 genetically modified organisms

      Everyone should pickup a copy of the Emergency Response Guidebook for their car – looks like there is even an iPhone app.

  10. RE: Fact# 5 – Ask for Angela: I have a negative experience about this. Due to it becoming widely known on social media etc I was at a bar, I had said no to a guy trying to kiss me plenty of times he kept asking why, I kept saying I don’t want to, he asked if I was single I said yes but I still didn’t want him near me. I then went to the bar (he followed me) asked for Angela, he had seen it on social media, he then punched me and it took couple of minutes for the doormen to come and whilst I lay on the floor not knowing what to do and feeling humiliated he was shouting obscenities at me whilst his mates held him back from hitting me back. Don’t get me wrong there were a lot of men in that bar getting rowdy because they’d just witnessed him hitting me. That didn’t stop me feeling petrified and humiliated.

    It is a great idea, however the whole point of it is to be able to ask for help without actually asking for help so you avoid things like this. But when everyone starts knowing about it then the whole point of it is destroyed, I’ve always said a better option would be to have staff in toilets or something so you can tell them away from the person.

  11. RE: Fact# 25 – 7500 Hijack Code: George Giffe JR hijacked a plane he chartered, while kidnapping his wife. I believe that pilot properly used it.

    In the end, Giffe killed the pilot, his wife and himself in an event that lead to specialized hostage negotiators. It was the shining example of what NOT to do in a hostage situation.

    • It was the shining example of what NOT to do in a hostage situation.

      Geez, that’s underselling it a bit. From an NPR article I saw:

      “Instead of supplying the fuel, the FBI tried something different. Agents began to shoot at the plane, attempting to disable its engines and tires — and Giffe reacted violently.”

      In a 100+ chase down the highway, maybe that’ll get you somewhere. But on a Turbo Commander sitting on the ramp, with them all inside that small cabin? Yeah, clearly nobody took the hostages chances into account.

  12. RE: Fact# 17 – Bread Bag Twist Tie Code: Always get your bread, meats, and other items from the back, if you don’t mind messing up someone’s FIFO arrangement, but your food will be fresher.

  13. RE: Fact# 3 – Treasured Guests: “Illegally spreading ashes”

    Did I miss something? Is it common practice to scatter the ashes of cremated individuals in Disney World? What the actual fu*k?

    • I’ve heard that they routinely deal with this issue. Each time this occurs, the ride or area must be closed and cleaned.

  14. RE: Fact# 23 – Code Pink: Other Hospital Codes:
    Code Blue – Cardiac/Respiratory Arrest
    Code Yellow – Bomb Threat
    Code Pink – Infant Kidnapped (usually from L&D)
    Code Purple – Missing Child
    Code White – IT Outage
    Code Orange – Toxic/Radioactive Chemical Spill
    Code Silver – Active Shooter
    Code One – Slip and Fall/Feint
    Code Internal/External – Undisclosed Emergency Inside/Outside
    Code Grey – A combative patient.

      • Yup. In the emergency room where I bring the majority of my patients, Code Grey indicates a stroke. If detected early enough, they can attempt to prevent some of the damage from occurring, and every minute matters. If the stroke occurred during the middle of the night but wasn’t discovered until the following morning, the damage has already been done. Various therapy may aid in recovery, however it is too late to stop the stroke, therefore activating the Code Grey protocol would be ineffective.

      • There was a hilarious mix-up at the aquarium I used to work at. For everyone dealing with animals or guests, “package” meant that there was a dead animal that needed to be taken care of. Better than saying, “Oh great, another fish died,” as this normally upsets visitors/small children.

        One day we were short a radio right as the doors opened. There was a dead fish right at the entrance, so another worker asked to borrow the front desk’s radio to alert them of the package. Unfortunately she didn’t check to see if the radio was set to security or staff.

        About 15 seconds later, one of the security guards has frantically burst through the crowd, looking for the package, which meant bomb on their channel. Poor guy almost had a heart attack.

        Moral: Make sure you have the right channel before you start saying codes.

  15. RE: Fact# 24 – Deadhead: A deadhead is a flight that’s going somewhere without passengers or cargo. Same for trains and ships

    • This is known as a ferry flight. We use the term “deadhead” for crew members who are being flown to a different city to work a flight. It might be different in the railway industry.

    • I don’t think anyone actually ever did that beside a few hipsters and the reporters around the world that were constantly rewriting the “news” story.

      Nowadays you want a POI file (“point of interest”) if you’re looking for free legal wifi in an unfamiliar area.

  16. RE: Fact# 28 – Code Adam: I’ve never worked anywhere that doesn’t train this. I thought everyone knew about it. Yeah, if you report a lost kid, the entire store I work at goes into lock down. No customers gets served, exits get blocked, particular people check the most dangerous parts of the store for a lost, young child. Every employee drops everything and looks for the kid, not until he or she has been found, but until the parent has confirmed, that yes, you found the right one.

    • Or really anything else the driver wants to get your attention about. I’ve seen it as “your brights are on, dumba*s,” “cops ahead,” “traffic jam,” “crashed vehicles,” and just a general “slow down.”

      • Yeah, I’ve always just sent/interpreted it as a nonspecific “check yourself/pay attention.” If you get flashed, something about your vehicle or route requires attention.

      • The best feeling is flashing your lights then seeing the passing cars brake lights go on in your mirror. That minor feeling of happiness knowing you just saved someone from a ticket. And picturing their smirk as they’re driving past the cop.

      • Last year, in the middle of winter, at 10 p.m., I was driving through some small New Jersey neighborhoods to drop off my girlfriend. I was driving down a pretty dark, somewhat wide, two-way road with a speed limit of 35 mph. The road had a neighborhood to the right that was separated by a stream; I knew that people would cross the street because there was a community pool further down the road; however, they typically crossed at a specific location where there was a bridge across the creek into the area.

        A vehicle approaching from the opposite side of the road flashed its headlights at me. There is no space for police officers to hide along that road, so I was immediately confused.

        Unbeknownst to me, within ten to fifteen seconds, a family of four will be crossing the street where there are no street lights, in the middle of winter, at 10 o’clock at night. I just noticed them because I was on the lookout for something. I am confident that I could have murdered a child on that day had that driver not cautioned me.

    • actually brights flash = cops

      lights on-off-on = lights bro

      triple tap on the brake lights = thanks for going out of your way to let me me pass (followed by zooming off usually)

      hazards, flashing brights, lots of horn = life is at stake to where i will risk my right to drive again

      alternating turn signals = im bored so im going to try and psyche you out

      randomly flashing brake light at a stoplight = ive got a kicking song playing and my drums are at home because im driving a car

      flashing red and blue lights on the top = some guy wants to play car tag

    • Daytime : flashing headlights – I’m letting you over (if you are signaling). Or danger ahead (cop, crash, etc.) Flashing hazards – thanks you. (For letting me over, warning me, etc)

      Nighttime : flashing headlights – your bright lights are blinding me, as*hole, or danger ahead. Dimming lights or cutting headlights off so only your clearance lights are on: I’m letting you over. Flashing hazards: thanks for letting me over.

      There. Now you can all make truckers think you are one.

      • In Aus the trucker thank you is generally alternate flashes of the indicator – eg right-left-right-left rather than hazards.

    • It was a huge element of culture that was included in books, newspapers, etc., as evidenced in the video, therefore I believe it would be incorrect to term it a myth. But you are correct; there is no way to determine whether any hobo utilized it legitimately or merely as a ruse. Even if it was an elaborate cover story or inside joke perpetrated by hoboes, I still think it’s pretty cool.

    • It wasn’t a myth for my grandpa. My great grandma was a real softie and apparently would feed people what she could when she could during the depression. She was generous but still struggling so she would send my grandpa out to rub off any markings they would make. Apparently they were quite good at using chalk or charcoal to sketch that theirs was a house who would feed them. Before this article I wasn’t even aware that this was a common “myth”, I had only ever heard my grandpa talking about it.

  17. RE: Fact# 37 – Friend of Dorothy: Wow. I’ve been watching Arrested Development for years and I’m just now getting this reference.

        • Yeah I though s4 was so so until it got to George Michael and Maeby. And then it quickly shifted into comedy gold. I’ve never immediately restarted a season before AD s4.

  18. RE: Fact# 33 – Violets Secret Code: I used to know several musician dudes who, thinking it was a cool “rockabilly” style or whatever, would put a handkerchief hanging out of their pocket. That all stopped when I told them about how it was code for gay sex acts.

  19. RE: Fact# 34 – Obituaries Secret Code: Wait…weren’t they actually dying of pneumonia due to the virus weakening their immune system? The same way pneumonia is way more likely to kill an elderly person than a young one?

    I’m almost positive Freddie Mercury died of pneumonia.

    • Yeah, but a lot of fatal illnesses kill by inducing the final, “secondary” cause of death. For example, some tumors kill by impinging on blood vessels leading to stroke, or put strain on the heart leading to cardiac arrest.

      What’s notable here is obituary writers focusing on these narrow secondary causes of death to obscure the “embarrassing” primary cause. Usually, if it was, say, a stroke caused by a long-standing brain tumor, they would say something like “died after a long illness” or “after a long battle with cancer”, not “died of a stroke”.

    • Yes there is a particular pneumonia that hiv/aids patients are extremely prone too. Nearly lost my BFF one Christmas who got this pneumonia. Was hospitalized and found he was positive. That was nearly 35 yrs ago. And he still kicking.

  20. RE: Fact# 37 – Friend of Dorothy: And then what? Did they think that if they caught the mysterious Dorothy that the gays would all deactivate like the Battle Droids in Star Wars?

    • Back when you could be dishonorably discharged from the military for being gay, knowing the identities of a ton of gay military personnel would be an awesome blackmail opportunity. Blackmailable military personnel, some with security clearance, who can potentially be tapped to steal secrets or supplies, sabotage equipment, and influence defense contracts.

      Everyone from Lockheed to the KGB would have absolutely loved to have a Dorothy in their pocket.



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