I was considering this xkcd, which got me wondering, were there any examples of number based shorthand like “ten-four” in the comic used in the time periods this comic considers “old-timey”?

In other words, what was the first known use of numbers to communicate a meaning entirely unrelated to their numerical values? (i.e. time would not count, as it’s numbers are directly related to the time being communicated) When did this practice start becoming common? xkcd #771: period speech

  • 1
    Number magic is probably too old to be attested historically. Just as an anecdote, 17 is a (very mild) profanity in Swedish because it's 1 less than Odin's number (which was originally a slightly stronger form of profanity). – tripleee Mar 22 '18 at 8:38
  • What does ten-four mean? – Wilson Mar 23 '18 at 9:05
  • @Wilson see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten-code specifically "Ten-codes, officially known as ten signals, are brevity codes used to represent common phrases in voice communication, particularly by law enforcement and in Citizens Band (CB) radio transmissions..." and "...Ten-codes, especially "10-4" (meaning "understood") first reached public recognition in the mid- to late-1950s through the popular television series...". Thanks for asking for that detail, it motivated me to look up the actual origins of the phrase. :) – Patrick L Mar 24 '18 at 1:02

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