Created By: Yora on February 19, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on April 23, 2014

Non-Code Code Name

When a secret project has a code name that gives its purpose right away.

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Trope
Supposed you have a secret project of great importance, that is so secret that outsiders mustn't even know that it exists. Since there could be spies everywhere and the true purpose of the project may even be hidden from higher-ups and allies, everyone who knows about it may only speak of it by a secret code name. Much too often in fiction, the chosen code name does pretty much the opposite by almost spelling out what the whole thing is about. Instead of concealing the purpose and nature of the project, it's exactly about What It Says On The Tin.

Examples

Film

Video Games
  • Project Lazarus in Mass Effect 2 is about bringing a dead person back to live.

Real Life
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • February 19, 2012
    Stratadrake
  • February 19, 2012
    Catbert
  • February 19, 2012
    arromdee
    The Other Wiki lists a case where someone actually figured out the secret from the code name:

    • Wotan (one-eyed god) — Based on nothing more than this and the knowledge it was a radar system, R.V. Jones, a British scientist working for Air Intelligence of the British Air Ministry and SIS assumed that it used a single beam and from that determined the system it would have to use. His shrewd assessment was exactly correct. A counter-system was quickly created which made Wotan useless.
  • February 19, 2012
    KingZeal
    Often justified if said project or mission are public. For example, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom are three public codenames for separate US military actions in the United States.

    Aware that you said this is for "secret" projects, but felt that was worth mentioning in the article.
  • February 19, 2012
    nman
    There are a lot of resurrection things names Lazarus, not just Mass Effect. Should that warrant a sub-trope? Just off the top of my head, there was a 2008-ish movie named "The Lazarus Project".
  • February 19, 2012
    Treblain
    Take a look at Operation Blank; this problem is discussed there.

    Also, Code Name is a trope about secret identities, so a name based off Code Name would be confusing.
  • February 20, 2012
    Antigone3
    Nazi code names were notoriously obvious -- "Sealion" for the (planned, but never executed) invasion of Great Britain, for example, or "Samland" as a code reference to the United States (a reference to Uncle Sam).
  • February 20, 2012
    aurora369
  • February 20, 2012
    aurora369
    Another WWII example was the Soviet Operation Bagration. Bagration was a Napoleonic-era Russian general who kicked the western invaders from Russia. The operation was intended to do (and did) exactly that.
  • February 21, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I like "Operation Obvious".

    The tendency of large-scale operations in fiction to have painfully obvious names is a very clear trope, a lot more so than Operation Blank, which reads like a mix of Useful Notes, Analysis, and "list of missions named 'Operation'".
  • February 21, 2012
    pawsplay
  • February 22, 2012
    MetaFour
    • In Gamera vs. Barugon (or at least the Sandy Frank dub), all the Japanese army's operations to kill Barugon have names like this. An attempt to use a diamond to lure the monster to drown in a lake is called Operation Diamond; an attempt to use a giant mirror to reflect the monster's attack back on it is called Operation Rear View Mirror.
  • February 22, 2012
    pawsplay
    We should probably limit real world examples, but
    • Operation Desert Storm really kind of lays it out there, doesn't it?
  • February 22, 2012
    Generality
    "Desert Storm" and "Enduring Freedom" are actually quite vague outside of context.
  • February 22, 2012
    PaulA
    Can it be mentioned that not every operation with a code name is trying to be secret? Sometimes it's just been given a name so people have something more concise to call it than "that operation where we're going to try and lure Buragon to his death with a giant diamond".
  • February 22, 2012
    KevinKlawitter
    Desert Storm might be a little vague, but its precedessor "Operation Desert Shield" was pretty straightforward.
  • February 23, 2012
    fulltimeD
    The title could be more clear. Maybe Obvious Code Name? I first thought of nicknames and the like when I saw this.
  • February 23, 2012
    Treblain
    Please read what I wrote earlier in the comments. Code Name is a trope about characters with code names. That might not be the best name for that trope, but this is YKTTW, not TRS. Therefore, don't name this anything based on the phrase Code Name, or it will be needlessly confusing. Operation Obvious is fine.
  • February 25, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the same scene as the previously mentioned Operation Human Shield from South Park Bigger Longer And Uncut is Operation Hide Behind The Darkies, which is to be executed by all the white soldiers.
  • February 25, 2012
    Bisected8
    Another vote for Operation Obvious.
  • February 25, 2012
    Premonition45
    I like Obvious Code Name, but Operation Obvious works too.
  • February 26, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Another vote for Operation Obvious.
  • February 26, 2012
    mythbuster
    Real Life Example: During WWII, Japan had a nuclear weapons project named the "Ni-Go Project"-literally "Two-Five Project." Now to most people, that sounds like gibberish, but to scientists of the day, it was obvious that it was a nuclear weapons project. Why? Because 2-5 was shorthand for 92-235, the atomic and mass numbers of U-235.
  • April 19, 2014
    aurora369
    bump
  • April 19, 2014
    Arivne
    • Formatted the Examples section.
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added Example section media header(s).
    • Namespaced and italicized work names.
    • Capitalized (allied).
  • April 19, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    the Lazarus thing seems related to Icarus Allusion. I say make a separate YKTTW for it called Lazarus Allusion, it's common enough on it's own.
  • April 19, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Vote for "Operation Obvious". And seconding launching a YMMV for "Lazarus Allusion".
  • April 19, 2014
    DAN004
    Does the code name have to refer to operations/projects? For example spies, FBI agents and such...
  • April 19, 2014
    ZuTheSkunk
    • In Megamind, the main character first says "Code"... and then proceeds to say what is obviously a non-coded normal sentence, while still insisting that it's coded. It's even lampshaded by his Minion.
  • April 20, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • Operation Dumbo Drop, where the US Army plans to parachute an elephant into a small village in Viet Nam in exchange for intelligence that those villagers have.
    • From the Family Guy episode "E. Peterbus Unum" where Peter declares his house a micronation, the US Army is on the other side of the border and threatens to institute Operation: Bomb The Crap Out Of Your House. "The guy who thinks up the names is on vacation."

  • April 23, 2014
    needsanewhobby
    This trope is basically Operation Blank + Exactly What It Says On The Tin.

    • In Blackadder Goes Forth, Melchett's plan to go over the top is referred to as "Operation: Certain Death".
  • April 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Does it HAVE to be Operation/Project? Since the title is about Code Name...
  • April 23, 2014
    needsanewhobby
    ^Kind of, if it isn't then what is there to signify that it's a code name at all? There has to be some code-name prefix otherwise it's just referring to things by what they are called.
  • April 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Codenaming oneself "Spy" (for example) should count. That's what I mean.
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