Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's All in the Name


My friend Alan just posted an article in his blog on the challenges faced by those who go by their middle names. His article reminded me of a fairly common tradition among some in the Air Force (mostly fighter pilot) to go by "callsigns." Now, if you've seen "Top Gun" you know about callsigns. "Maverick," "Goose," "Iceman," are world-renowned callsigns--that's why you'd never see anything like that in the Air Force. Fighter pilot friends of mine let me into their world (only briefly, mind you) to explain a few of the callsign rules. To boil it all down, a callsign should poke fun at some character flaw or physical trait of the person with the callsign. My brother-in-law's callsign is "Pokey." If you knew him you'd know that is a perfect callsign. I love him to death, but that man is so slow; we're always waiting on him. Another personal favorite of mine was the callsign "Worm" given to a guy who, frankly, could pass for a girl if he had long hair. "Woman OR Man," thus the callsign "Worm." Others I've heard of were "Pyro," "Screamin'," "Wrut-row," and "Rock." While this last one seems a break with the "disparaging" rule-of-thumb, this name was a play on the man's last name...Bottomlee. Pretty funny. He's a good man, by the way, and takes it all in stride, as most do. If you don't, the creative juices really start flowing resulting in a name much, much worse than the first.

So, taking these basic callsign rules into account, let's revisit "Top Gun" and consider for a moment what callsigns these characters more likely would have had. Tom Cruise's character "Maverick" would probably have been called "Sweaty"--the man sweated through the whole movie. The "Iceman" character would probably have been named "Flamer." The locker room scenes still make me a little uncomfortable. "Goose?" I'm drawing a blank.

8 comments:

George said...

Goose's real-life nickname could have been "Rogain" or something like that.

Rick said...

He kept goosing Meg Ryan when Tom Cruise wasn't around. Or goosing Tom Cruise when Meg Ryan wasn't around. I forget which.

Alan said...

Interestingly enough, I knew a Bottomlee in Valdosta, GA (Moody AFB) who was a fighter pilot trainer (T-38). I can't remember his call sign...
"Buster" was a friend who pulled too many Gs in the F-16, cracking or "busting" part of the plane. "R-Squared" was Rob Rickert. "Sweetness" was Rob Sweet and "Cajun" Tom Manian (very S. Louisiana name), etc. etc. Great entry, Steve.

Chuck said...

Steve - One pilot in my sqd, Cpt. Fornof (son of J.W. 'Corkey' Fornof - go imdb him) went by the call sign "Skins." Not too difficult to see where that came from.

Did you publish your call sign? Or would that be too secret squirrel? You already came with "Critter" and one other one involving a sack, if I recollect correctly.

Steve said...

Alan, the Bottomlee from Ga. is one in the same. I met "Rock" and Becky in SC when they were stationed there with the in-laws. Talk about a small world!

Chuck, most airlifters don't have callsigns. The squadron I'm in now is the exception. I haven't gotten one yet but will pass it along when I do. It'll be tough to beat "Crapsack" or "Poogepocket."

James said...

Pooge Pocket was a favorite of mine. Jabbox was the best at assigning nicknames.

Chuck said...

I am still not exactly sure what pooge pocket means.

I am not sure that I want to.

Martin said...

I was watching this documentary show called Jetstream about Canadian fighter pilots. One of the guys on the show apparently screwed up an air-to-air refuelling and his probe got chopped off. After that, he got the call sign "Bobbitt".