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The Final Definitive Thread on What Five by Five means

nerd4hire

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It's been pointed out to me the thread linked to in the Board information index explaining what "Five by Five means doesn't really tell it all.

Very well then let's pack this one with info, and I'll link to it in the index. If I miss anything feel free to point it out.

This is from the current reference thread.

I have inside Information mahahaha!! ok that was a little less than scary, Anyway if you have gotton the buffy magazine Issue 51 on Nov 2003 you would have seen there was a simiralr question asked in the "Fang Mail" of the folowing.

Q: What does Faiths saying, 'Five by Five' actually mean? I know it is something along the lines of 'good' or 'fine', but where does it come from? -- Laura, via Email.

A: According to the Random House Histerical Dictionary of Americian Slang. Vol. 1, A-G, by J.E. Lightner 'Five by Five' or 'Five by' is the term used in radio communications to mean, "I'm hearing you loud and clear." it can also mean "Okay" or "everything's perfect." The term has even been linked to the size of the bed in a pick-up truck and obesity. (although Eliza Dushku dosent fit my definition of obesity!) -- Rob Francis.

https://buffy-boards.com/showthread.php?t=8030&highlight=*five+five*

And here's one from another thread linked to in the reference thread.

While the meaning is pretty clear from context (we're fine and dandy), the origin of this phrase is interesting. And hard to track down. The best explanation I've seen is that it derives from military radio communication. A scale of 1 to 5 was used to describe the clarity and volume of a signal. Hence 5x5 meant that I can hear you and understand you. The modern military term being "loud and clear".

https://www.buffy-boards.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3771

Here's a good one from a Faith board.

Five by five means that things are good. It is lingo used by the military, radio operators, and pilots about how good/bad a radio signal is, in regards to volume and clarity, on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best). So, five by five, means the best possible. So when someone asks Faith how she is? She's telling them she's 'as good as can be'

http://faithsolace.com/!/faith/five-by-five/

The wikipedia definition, of course.

In voice procedure (the techniques used to facilitate spoken communication over two-way radios) a station may request a report on the quality and strength of signal they are broadcasting. In the military of the NATO countries, and other organizations, the signal quality is reported on two scales; the first is for signal strength, and the second for signal clarity. Both these scales range from one to five, where one is the worst and five is the best. The listening station reports these numbers separated with the word "by". Five by five therefore means a signal that has excellent strength and perfect clarity — the most understandable signal possible.

Five by five by extension has come to mean "I understand you perfectly" in situations other than radio communication, the way Loud and Clear entered slang, post-WW2.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_by_five

Five by five has been used in current culture other than Buffy. Here's some examples from Wikipedia again.

Colloquial Use in Popular Culture

* The phrase "In the pipe, five by five" is used by the dropship pilot, Ferro, in the movie Aliens to report that the drop is proceeding as planned. It was later used by the Terran dropship in the Blizzard Entertainment PC game StarCraft as one of many quotes from Aliens.
* The term was used in the movie Clear and Present Danger when the Special Ops team communicated to the CIA Operations Commander.
* The term "five by five" was used by the character Faith (played by Eliza Dushku) who was a "Slayer" in the WB television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel. Faith Lehane, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, used it frequently as slang meaning that things were good. The phrase was not fully understood by other characters (Tara Maclay: Five what by five what?, Willow Rosenberg: That's the thing, no one knows."("This Year's Girl")) Five by Five" was also the title of an Angel episode which prominently featured Faith.
* Used also in several episodes of the TV series Alias, e.g., the fourth season episode "Nightingale" (Marshal says, "Copy, five by five, Phoenix standing by" in response to a mission update) and the fifth season episode "Solo" (Marshall says five by five again).
* The phrase was frequently used by EarthForce personnel on the TV series Babylon 5, presumably due to the characters' military background.
* Another instance was in the Gene Roddenberry series, Andromeda. In the second season episode "All Too Human", Trance Gemini uses the phrase to indicate that the ship is battle-ready.
* The phrase "five by five" — and sometimes "five by" for short — is also used repeatedly by the police troopers in Stephen King's 2002 novel, From A Buick 8.
* The term was used liberally in the film Event Horizon.
* The phrase is heard in The Twilight Zone episode "The Parallel", from the fourth season (March 1963), when two officers discuss a patient's condition, indicating he is healthy.
* In the movie Contact, Jodie Foster's character, Dr.Ellie Arroway, uses the term to signify clear communication between her space pod and mission control.
* In Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves, at the start of the game Sly says to Bently, "Alright, I'm five by five," indicating everything is set for the mission.
* In the video game Halo, in The Maw, Echo 4-19 says, "I read you five by five," as she approaches Master Chief for pick-up.
* In JAG episode 1.09, "Boot", Lt. Meg Austin uses the phrase "five by five, sir" in response to a command by Lt. Harm Rabb.
* In 'The Thunderbirds', episode 31 'Ricochet' it is used by one of the members of International Rescue
* In the CBS series "The Unit" Season 2 Episode 21; the character Mack 'Dirt Diver' Gerhardt when questioned about his mental state tells his commanding officer, Colonel Tom Ryan, "...but I'm five by five and mission ready" to signify his mental health.
* Five by Five is also a UK digital agency located in Southampton, England - http://www.fivebyfivedigital.com - working with the games, travel, retail and FMCG markets.

Does anybody have anything to add?
 

Senior Watcher

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I thought that it meant "square." back in the 60's and 70's people used to refer to someone as "L7" or "square". Then they would say, stop being such a square man.

However, I believe faith used 5x5 as slang for L7, which according to wikipedia means: The term "square", in referring to a person, originally meant someone who was honest, traditional, and loyal.

For further clarity (not to insult anyones intelligence), if you have a box that is 5 inches in length and 5 inches in width, then you have a "square" box.

I guess that means the box is loyal to you?! ;-)
 

Blondie Bear

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DO YOU READ ME? As in conversation by radio, this means "Do you understand me?" The answer might be "Yes, Five by Five," meaning loud and clear.

Davidson, Levette J. "More United States Air Force Slang." American Speech 31.3 (1956): 226-229. JSTOR. <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-1283%28195610%2931%3A3%3C226%3AMUSAFS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A>.

Hope that helps.
 

white avenger

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I agree that the expression is Faith-esque for "Loud and clear" or whatever, indicating an optimal condition. I just wonder where she would have come up with such a relatively obscure expression in the first place. Therein, I believe, lies a tale.
 

ILLYRIAN

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Did some-one mention that it's the human equivalent of two Dolphins telepathically communicating about how tasty the fish are near the east coast of America ?.

If you want to know about what 5 x 5 means, don't read this post, although if you've read this, oops !
 

Randy Giles

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When Faith would say "I'm Five By Five", I don't think she was saying "I'm honest/loyal", SW. :)

I think she usually meant it as "Everything's good" or "perfect" or "I'm great".
 

StuckinTraffic

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When I was in the Army, we used it when operating radios......it was radio-speak for "reading you loud and clear" or meaning you were getting a good signal.
 

Blondie Bear

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I can see how it might be confusing, cause Faith used it to mean "fine."
"How are you?"
"Five by five."

In that context, it obviously doesn't mean "loud and clear." Unless she's screaming. ;) It's possible that Faith just heard it somewhere and thought it was cool without actually knowing what it meant, and started using it as code for "I'm doing fine."
 
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