Did You Know These Everyday Phrases Originated from Trucker Slang?

April 4, 2017 at 12:42 PMJerry Spelic

We depend on truckers to keep our freight and economy moving. Over time, they have developed a language all their own. Did you know that many words and phrases you use every day originated as trucker slang? Transportation is so important and vital to the US economy that we thought we’d put together a blog post about trucker slang and lingo.

First, a short history lesson. In 1958, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) allocated a new block of frequencies for a citizens band (CB) service. During the 1960s, it became popular among small businesses that were frequently on the road, like electricians, plumbers, carpenters and truck drivers. As CB radios became smaller and less expensive, CB radio usage exploded and a CB slang language evolved.

Some common, everyday phrases that started as trucker slang include calling your spouse your “better half.” Or watching the “idiot box.” If you still have a home phone, you probably call it a “landline.” So did truckers, decades ago! Ever meet someone for a “barley pop?” Or shop at “Wally World?” Yes, these slang words for beer and Walmart owe their creation to truckers.

Truckers have also created some great nicknames for American cities. Los Angeles is commonly known as “Shaky Town.” In fact, most city slang names refer to what the city is known for. Like “Beer Town” (Milwaukee), “Guitar” (Nashville), “Derby” (Louisville), and “Gateway” (St. Louis). Others are just fun to say, like “Choo-choo” (Chattanooga), “The Big D” (Dallas) and “The Nickel” (Buffalo).

During the 1970s oil crisis, the U.S. government imposed a 55 mph speed limit, and fuel shortages and rationing were common. CB radios were crucial for truckers to locate service stations with fuel and to warn of speed traps. Truckers paid by the mile were negatively impacted by driving slow so lots of slang was created to alert other truckers of law enforcement. If you’ve seen Smokey and the Bandit, you know an officer of the law is a “bear.” But did you know that a rookie cop is a “baby bear,” a police helicopter is a “bear in the air,” or that a speed trap is known as a “bear trap?” A sheriff is known as a “county mounty” and “city kitties” are the local police.

Finally, you’ve probably used “10-4” to acknowledge that you heard or understood something that someone said. Same with “what’s your 20?” which is short for 10-20, meaning location. These everyday terms originated from CB radio slang.

Next time you have a load you need to keep between the ditches, whether it is "Badger Bound" or headed to "Mile High," contact PartnerShip. You can reach us at 800-599-2902 or get a quote now! Until then, keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down.

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