Numbers for words (was Teen Lingo Site)

Ron Silliman silliman at GMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 2 11:59:20 UTC 2005

I noted that that site identifies as "police call numbers" a series of
codes 187, 211, 411. Those codes are in fact the sections of the
California Penal Code under which the various crimes -- e.g. homocide
at 187 -- are declared to be illegal. So that language has already
gone through one level of abstraction whenever a police dispatcher
uses the number rather than the act to describe an event. Because so
many TV shows are set in California, an awful lot of state code has
become more widely known as generic terms for different events and
conditions. Thus a heavy metal band some years back had an album (in
pre-CD days) called 5150, the code under which a person could be
committed as a danger to him- or her-self and others.

Ron Silliman

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