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Five by Five

Where does the term ‘five by five’ come from? I first heard it on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, but have since heard it in a military setting. The context on ‘Buffy’ is:

How are you doing? Five by five!

I take it to mean something like ‘fine’, ‘great’ or something similar. Does anyone know how it came to be?

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That's military jargon, though I've read it in an old CB operations guide. There are two scales to measure how well you are hearing someone on the radio: Strength and clarity of transmision. Since its a five-point scale, a signal of 'five by five' would be the optimum values. Something worse would be 'two by two' for instance.

So the comment of 'five by five' in this case would indicate that they were feeling in the optimum best of health.

Bryan October 5, 2004, 4:25pm

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I first heard it in James Camerons' Aliens movie. The female transport pilot says the following during takoff,
"In the pipe, five by five."

It has since been used in the game StarCraft by Blizzard Entertainment. The pilots of the Human shuttle's are female and say this sometimes when you click on them.

Buffy was probably just using it because it became sort of a geek thing to say after the StarCraft inclusion.

neil October 6, 2004, 3:25pm

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all your base are belong to us!

speedwell2 October 7, 2004, 4:05am

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take off every 'zig with liberty.

pirobizen October 27, 2004, 5:58pm

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In Alien, Ferro, a dropship pilot, states "We're in the pipe, five by five."

This means in laymen's terms "We're on track and read you loud and clear."

It's usually a military term. There are 5 levels of reception, five being the best. People say stuff like: "Testing, testing, one two three four, five by five." (Or four by four, etc)

Michael January 30, 2006, 8:27pm

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Brian and Michael have pretty much hit it on the head. Do note, however that I don't think it's necessarily military. It applies in all forms of radio communication. It is actually an officially documented expression for all licensed FCC radio communications, ham radio, aircraft communications, etc.

porsche January 31, 2006, 8:20am

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US Air Force lingo:

Q: What's your situation?

A: "five by five" or simply "5 by"

Meaning: in position and ready

Jackal February 21, 2006, 8:00am

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It refers to signal strength and clarity, both rated on a five point scale.

Bryan June 30, 2006, 7:41pm

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The other commentators are correct about the 5 by 5 part. I do believe the, 'in the pipe' part refers to being in transit to land. I heard the term originally from Pilots referring to the visualisation produced by the client end of a TLS (Transponder Landing System). The TLS largely automates that landing process.

chris.kruger October 17, 2010, 4:59pm

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"Five by five", also used in french for instance ("Cinq sur cinq"), just means that you receives clearly a transmission. It is also used when you want to say that you understand an order.
I heard this in many many movies. *
But THE quote with this expression is in Aliens (Alien 2) "We are in the pipe, five by five". And used after in Starcraft in reference to Aliens.

Hudson June 21, 2012, 8:01pm

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It's also in the Freeverse game Wingnuts.

Mattchu March 16, 2013, 12:14am

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Yep, as mentioned above it's a radio comm phrase, but turned into slang (like everything else) by the military meaning something like "things are good"

When you answer a radio call you can report back how well you can understand the transmission. You use two ratings, both number from 1 to 5. The first number is the signal strength. The second number is the clarity (amount of static) aka (signal to noise ration).

So for a fair signal you might say 3x3, but if you can hear them loud and clear, then you say 5 by 5, or just 5by, or fiver or who knows what else since I was in.

GroundLimit Out. (not over and out, dunno where that came from ;)

GroundLimit July 2, 2013, 1:37pm

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