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What’s Your 20?

If you grew up in the 70s, you probably know a little CB slang, if only from watching Smokey and the Bandit or hearing this song on the radio:

Pop culture’s treatment of the CB radio was precious, depicting it as the medium of communication between gruff but lovable truckers fighting the good fight, making their own morality even if breaking the law. In a way, though, CB radios were a precursor to internet comment boards: the anonymity coupled with the technology to broadcast unfiltered opinions led some users to spread hatefulness of every variety. But then CB radio fell to the next waves of technology (mobile phones and the internet itself) and now all we are left with is a long list of colorful slang and Burt Reynolds’s magnificent arched eyebrows. Here are 20 particularly evocative examples of CB slang.

  1. “10-20” (more often simply “20”) Denotes location, as in identifying one’s location (“My 20 is on Main Street and First”) or asking the receiver what their current location is (“What’s your 20?”)
  2. “10-4” Affirmative.
  3. “Breaker” Telling other CB users that you’d like to start a transmission on a channel(“Breaker One-nine” refers to channel 19, the most widely used among truck drivers)
  4. “Paper Hanger” police giving speeding ticket
  5. “Cornfield Cadillac” a John Deere tractor
  6. “Detroit Vibrator” a Chevrolet truck
  7. “Flag Waver Taxi” Highway construction truck
  8. “Pony Express” Mail hauler
  9. “Alice in Wonderland” Someone who is lost or seeking directions.
  10. “Harvey Wallbanger” A driver who appears to be drunk or is driving recklessly
  11. “How many candles are you burning?” Asking how old someone is
  12. “Rubber duck” The first vehicle in a convoy
  13. “Steak on the Grill” To hit a cow
  14. “Window Washer” Rain
  15. “Comedian” The median between a divided highway
  16. “Pickle Park” An interstate rest area frequented by prostitutes
  17. “Vantucky” Vancouver, Washington
  18. “Bubble City” Champaign, IL
  19. “Shakeytown” Los Angeles (because of the earthquakes)
  20. “Mistake On The Lake” Chicago or Cleveland 

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