In the 1970s, a radio became not only a means of communication, but a pop icon for its unique language that transferred from practical to common use – the Citizens Band Radio aka CB Radio.
Under the rules of the Federal Communications Commission in the United States and the Canadian Radio and Television Corporation, citizens were allowed to access radio frequencies via Class A and B channels post World War II.
In the late 1960s, this form of communication was popular with small business, especially truck drivers, electricians and plumbers, as a way to be in touch with head office.
The 1970s brought many economic challenges, including the oil crisis in 1973, when the US government imposed the 55mph speed limit.
Fuel shortages and long lineups at service stations had their impact on truck drivers, who made their money per mile.
The quicker they were, the more money they made, and their disgust at this change in the speed limit led them to use CB Radios to communicate about speed traps and places to find the best gas price.
Initially users were required to pay a fee of US$20 for a license and to have a call sign. By the mid to late 1970s, the popularity dropped the license fee to US$4 and call signs were chosen by the individuals, making their own nicknames for the radio airwaves.
The popularity spilled over into culture with movies like Convoy (1975) and Smoky and the Bandit (1977) and the tv series Dukes of Hazzard (1979), which glamourized the freewheelin’ life of truck driving and the open road.
As interest grew, the language was the key – and the slang was used commonly. The wide range of terms for law enforcement incorporated many new “words” including bear, smokey bear, baby bear, checkpoint charlie, cocaine cowboy, Miss Piggy and Smokey on Four Legs.
Even cities/states were given nicknames – or used commonly used nicknames in the CB world – Armpit ( New Jersey), Big Apple (NYC), Big Easy (New Orleans), Sin City (Las Vegas) and The Swamp (Montreal). “Breaker Breaker good buddy” was a popular phrase of the CB Radio world.
The technology faded in the next decade with the advent of mobile phone technology and but the slang often pops up in our language, a throwback to the world of trucking culture.