In Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2, Captain Price asks Yuri to shoot two men using his sniper rifle. He first draws Yuri's attention to their location by saying, "Two x-rays, 11 o'clock." And then commands to kill those, "Take them out." I don't understand x-rays here! I googled it so many times but got nothing. It wasn't dark and they weren't wearing night vision goggles, so that possibility is also out. Anyone is familiar with such term and it's usage here?

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    You may wish to refer to this related question. – Lee Mac Dec 6 at 18:52
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    See also: American soldiers referred to the Viet Cong by the abbreviations 'Victor Charlie' or 'V-C', while 'Charlie' was used for Communist forces in general. – Nigel Touch Dec 6 at 19:12
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    In case any English learners are confused, "11 o'clock" in a military context means "slightly to the left of where you are facing", and "12 o'clock" would mean "straight ahead". – 200_success Dec 6 at 21:44
  • Duplicate question on Gaming.SE. Means unidentified target is very slightly left of straight ahead. – Rob Dec 7 at 1:31
up vote 14 down vote accepted

In context it's clear that by "X-ray" they mean "possible enemies" or "possible targets". It's military slang.

The question is, why "X-ray"? This is most likely related to the military phonetic alphabet, in which X-RAY stands for the letter "X". "X" is commonly used in English to refer to "unidentified" or "secret" objects (and so sounds vaguely "cool"), but in this case it's possible that 'X" stands for "eXtremist" -- meaning "rogue" soldiers who are not part of any official state-sponsored military.

In a similar way, certain militaries (or at least, games supposedly based on the military) use "Tango" to refer to certain enemies. TANGO is the military phonetic term for the letter "T", which may refer to "terrorist" or "target".

Note that in other games "X-ray" might refer to "eXtraterrestrials", meaning aliens.

  • I've heard the term "X-ray" from friends in the military, and they confirm that there's no real single, defined meaning -- it means what Tango and Victor Charlie did: Enemy. Sure, there's some reason behind it (eXtremist according to one, X on a map according to another, Target, VietCong, etc.) but it's not really used as an abbreviation for that. – Nic Hartley Dec 6 at 21:01
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    @NicHartley Sure, that makes sense. Military slang is like any other slang -- each new generation needs to make up its own to distinguish themselves from the "old guard". Also like most slang, I expect an original source exists, but is often unknown by the people who use it. – Andrew Dec 6 at 21:32
  • The use of "Tango" for "enemy" predates concerns with terrorism by some time. – chrylis Dec 6 at 22:13
  • @chrylis "Tango" for "target", perhaps? Although it might just be a movie / video game thing, as apparently actually military personnel don't ever use it. They have other slang terms for enemy combatants. One thing I've learned, hanging around Marines, is not to assume anything I've seen in movies. – Andrew Dec 6 at 22:24
  • As an aside, I have heard of the bull's eye of a shooting target described as the X-ring (this would be inside the "10"-ring) – Haem Dec 7 at 11:02

X-ray is the phonetic pronunciation of the letter X in military speak. Basically just preventing miscommunication over noisy channels. This may just be Call of Duty being Call of Duty and trying to sprinkle as much military speak as possible into the game. Check out this: wikipedia article

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    "X-Ray just means X" isn't really any help understanding the sentence. Okay, well what does "X" mean? – Kevin Dec 6 at 20:46

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