Celebrity Names Blog

The Top Ten Secret Service Codenames

If you've been caught up in Etch-a-Sketch fever this week, you may have missed the other important news from the Republican candidates. Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have chosen their Secret Service codenames. Romney chose “Javelin,” possibly from the name of a 1960s muscle car manufactured by the company his father owned, and Santorum chose “Petrus,” possibly a reference to Peter, the first Pope. The use of codenames by the Secret Service for presidents, vice presidents, and their families, as well as candidates and other public officials, harkens back to a time when communications were not usually encrypted. The tradition has stuck around for the sake of convenience and brevity, although now the names are often known to the public and are not a matter of security. Generally, codenames are nouns that would not normally come up in conversation and are not easily mistaken with another word (they often have two or three strong syllables). This curious naming practice got us thinking -- what other great names have been whispered in hushed tones into a thousand wrist microphones? Here are our favorites.

10. George H.W. Bush -- “Timberwolf”

We’re partial to the kind of codenames that have that epic, patriotic, spy-movie feel -- the kind of name you would have chosen if you were playing detective as a kid. We think “Timberwolf” fits the bill. Amy Carter’s “Dynamo” and Bill Clinton’s “Eagle” were also contenders in this category.

9. Nelson Rockefeller -- “Sandstorm”

We couldn’t help but think of Sandstorm’s use as a joke baby name on the show 30 Rock, when bombshell Cerie contemplates, “If it's a girl, Bookcase...or Sandstorm...or maybe Hat, but that's more of a boy's name.”

8. Malia Obama -- “Radiance”

This word just kind of makes you smile. It seems too whimsical for a world of men in black suits and sunglasses. Generally, families pick codenames sharing the first letter -- other current occupants of the White House are “Renegade” (Barack), “Renaissance” (Michelle), and “Rosebud” (Sasha).

7. Dick and Lynne Cheney -- “Angler” and “Author”

Dick Cheney fishes and Lynne Cheney writes. Props to them for accuracy.

6. Karenna Gore -- “Smurfette”
A name from a specific pop culture era, to be sure. When Karenna’s dad (“Sundance”) took office as the VP in 1993, she was 19, and had no doubt grown up with The Smurfs cartoon, which aired on Saturday mornings from 1981 to 1990.

5. Ted Kennedy -- “Sunburn”

If you could pick from any two-syllable nouns beginning with “S” in the English language, why would you pick a universally unpleasant one? His brother John fared much better with “Lancer.”

4. Dan Quayle -- “Scorecard”

What’s even funnier than a random noun with a painfully negative connotation is a random noun with no connotation whatsoever. Was someone picking a codename from items they could see on their desk?

3. Meghan McCain -- “Peter Sellers”

This is the only codename named after a real person with a first and last name, and it seems it was often shortened to “Peter.” One would think this defeats the purpose of the codename not getting confused with real people?

2. Ron Nesson (Gerald Ford’s Press Secretary) -- “Clam Chowder”
We love how descriptive this is -- “Chowder” probably would have sufficed, but the phrase is itself fun to say. And fun to imagine the Secret Service saying: “Clam Chowder is on the move.”

1. Susan and Jack Ford -- “Panda” and “Packman”
Though both first children were in their late teens or early 20s when their dad took office, they picked delightfully youthful codenames. It’s interesting to note that the use of “Packman” predated the video game “Pac-Man” by five years -- it’s a word meaning “peddler.”

Let’s have some fun -- what would you choose for a Secret Service codename? What about same-first-letter names for your family? Brainstorm in the comments.

--A.D.

Comments

March 27, 2012 12:56 PM
By shadelit (not verified)

Question: does anybody know how a family arrives at the choice of the letter that will be used? Is a letter assigned, and then they pick names? Does the actual politico of the family pick their name, and everyone else falls in line with the letter?

July 2, 2012 1:31 AM
By Brooke Monachino (not verified)

Is a letter assigned, and then they pick names?
Thanks for sharing all of those.
agico machine

November 5, 2012 1:15 AM
By Dell Jay (not verified)

it’s a word meaning “peddler.

September 18, 2013 3:58 AM
By sai (not verified)

Among those code names, what I like most is the "Sandstorm", it sounds great. - Mallory Fleming

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