"Who is Roger? And why is he always out?” was the perennial question of one of the sergeants I worked with in the army. He was referring to the use of the phrase Roger, out to acknowledge receipt of a radio message. Roger meant I understand, and out meant that you were ending the conversation, but none of us knew why the term roger was used.
The answer is quite simple. Use of roger in radio transmissions dates to World War II. Roger was the word in the phonetic alphabet that stood for the letter R. Roger was an abbreviation for received, and eventually became radio speak for okay or I understand. American Speech records the usage in 1941:
Roger! Expression used instead of okay or right.
Modern soldiers are rightly confused by the origin as the roger does not stand for the letter R in the current phonetic alphabet used by the American military, Romeo does. But the use of roger to acknowledge a transmission continues.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton