So you and your friends are out and about, and a hottie comes into view. You would like to declare your attraction to the hottie and draw your friends’ attentions there, because this is pleasant, but the hottie is in earshot. What to do? Define and use a scammer code.

A scammer code is a code word (or set of words) used to surreptitiously draw a friend’s attention to another, attractive individual. (Scam being a colloquial verb meaning to look for hotties.)

I thought that it was just me and my friends who were using these things (partially because of stigma, gay folk have more of a reason to encode such declarations) but I’ve recently learned that no, lots of different groups have them. In asking around, I’ve gathered the following real world examples.

  • Dolc
    Used by a group of sisters I know. It’s pronounced “dolch”, derived from the Italian “dolce,” for sweet.
  • Pow
    Used by some college friends, derivation unknown.
  • Ball on!
    Used by some volleyball teammates. In game, this phrase means another game’s ball has landed on your court, and it effectively pauses the game until the ball can be removed from your court. Or the hottie passes out of view.
  • Woof
    Used by the the bear community. Derived from dogs? In heat maybe?
  • Meanwhile…
    Used by a group of friends. It acknowledges the pause caused in conversation by the scam and segues a return to conversation.
  • Coughing
    Used by a group of not-so-subtle friends of mine.
  • HB10
    Used by Mystery and his wingmen in The Mystery Method. It stands for “Hot Babe” and a ranking from 1-10.

The “woof” example from the bear community is nearly a non-example, since it is used by almost the entire community, and as such, can’t really be said to be surreptitious, and secrecy is important. In fact, I had a number of people who asked me not to publish their codes since it would risk losing the hidden power. Bears, I guess, are given to self-consciousless-carpe-diem-ing.

Given as I am to design patterns, I must subsequently ask, “So, what makes for a good scammer code?” Of course that’s really up to the group that uses them, but it seems to me that there are three requirements.

  1. It is simple: I think this is because windows of scamming opportunity are often quick. Note that at least in these examples, all are two syllables or less.
  2. It is unmistakable: It should be unusual enough that it’s not mistaken for the actual content of the utterance, e.g. “Can I borrow your phone?” which would put someone’s attention on handing you their phone rather than the target.
  3. It doesn’t draw attention to itself: Should you point and shout, “Hot-TAY!” everyone around you will know you for the shallow bastard that you are anyway, judging someone purely on physical appearance. Plus you might ruin your chances with either said hottie or onlookers.

Over time, some groups inflect their codes to provide emphasis. Mystery's "HB" +number system is a simple example. A group of actors I know began with a simple code of "Excuse me, I've got something in my eye." Over time the size of the imaginary mote-in-the-eye has come to indicate the level of attraction, e.g. "Now that's a boulder in my eye, right there." Recently he tells me that they can even just drop the contextualizers and offer single words describing some quantity of stone: "Mountain!"

Further evolved idiolects provide ways to identify the particular hottie from a crowd, and to qualify one's level of interest. The system I use with my partner is an embarassingly/delightfully complex affair (the complexity of which is part of the joke) that incorporates multiple prefixes for categorization, e.g. "strai-", "gai-", "goth-", "frat-", and identification, e.g. "red shirt-", "short-", as well as suffixes that act as qualifiers, i.e. "+" and "-", akin to the American grade system.

Surely this bears further cross-group linguistic analysis.

Comical consequences for the Truly Hot?
When I realized that this was much more common than I originally thought, I further realized that it must be a strange world for the Truly Hot among us. As they walk down the street, taking, say, their hotness for its weekly tune up, instead of the usual snippets of conversation that I might hear, they hear these strange semi-phrases and sounds from the people they pass.

"Ball on."


"HB9, at least."


"Dude. Boulder! Eye!" 

What must they think of the world?


It so happens that people enjoy sharing theirs (so, you’ve now got a free topic of conversation for your next cocktail party) but if you’d like me to list the code you use in your groups, let me know and I can post. 
  • TenMinJoe notes: There's the classic "o'clock" system where you say e.g. "7 o'clock" and then everyone goes "What, wait, your 7 or my 7?", messing it up
  • shaogo shares "Elvis has left the building" (plus quite funny variants) with a regular at his restaurant.
  • GhettoAardvark and his buddies exclaim that, "I love red Skittles" where the color of the Skittle clearly matches some item of clothing, like a shirt. If the shirt is off-Skittle-palette, they can substitute ice cream flavors.
    "This works extremely well, in that I have been actually speaking to a woman and been able to slip this little gem in there for my buddies as a 'She's mine, look elsewhere' hint."


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