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The following dialog is taken from the FPS game Crysis Warhead level 7, All the Fury:

Emerson: Psycho, be advised: all JSOC forces are go for withdrawal and re-grouping. We're still not sure the extent of the new threat, but until we have a handle on it we're pulling conventional troops off this meat grinder. The only mission still on the table is yours.

Psycho: Copy, boss. Any news on O'Neill?

Emerson: No. He probably got off the island like everyone else. Those creatures are tearing this place apart.

After consulting several dictionaries, I think the closest sense is a project or undertaking that has been approved, as in Oxford Dictionaries:

Tell them the project is a go.

For anybody who doesn't know, it seems that our move to London is a go, details and timeline to be determined.

The citation says are go, not are a go. Is it correct?

Besides, I think it is a project or undertaking that should act as the subject. I would say it this way:

Withdrawal and re-grouping is a go for all JSOC forces.

Did I get it right? And is my rephrasing acceptable?

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Start by ignoring the for: that heads a preposition phrase which modifies the idiomatic expression All __ are go. Go here is not a noun but an adjective signifying a status: "ready to go".

The expression derives, as modulusshift says, from a more-or-less military context, but it's quite familiar to any American who was around during the Apollo era: the report which licensed launching a spacecraft was "All systems are go" (or merely "All systems go"), meaning that the telemetry signals from every system were reporting a launch-ready status. The phrase quickly spread to other contexts—for instance, this from the magazine Jet in 1962:

According to bosses at National Broadcasting Co., and her various instructors "all systems are go" in a manner of speaking, meaning that the personable starlet is developing as they had hoped in their plan to equip her for impressive roles.

And other entities than systems may be "go". Here's an excerpt from the New York Times for 1/26/96:

Mrs. Roukema said the $17.5 million would be an essential component of the financing package needed to buy the tract.

"All parties are go if the package gets done," Mrs. Roukema said yesterday. "The real impediment at this point is the need for Congressional agreement."

So the sense of your quote is that "All forces are in a state of readiness for withdrawal and re-grouping."

  • Ah, true. I hadn't thought of that usage. I come from a military family, so it's generally unclear to me which of these things have become more commonly understood. – modulusshift Dec 8 '15 at 17:32
  • I would add that "is go for" is a quite common variation. Other prepositions are less common. The phrases "is a go" or just "is go" are more or less interchangeable. It's similar to saying "that's a 10-4" or simply "10-4" (10-4 is CB radio slang for "affirmative"). The article "a" can be added in many circumstances for idiomatic effect. – Era Dec 8 '15 at 17:40
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    The purpose here is clarity — the controllers are being polled to make a decision: GO / NO GO, and there can't be any confusion over terms like "good", "bad", "problem", "wait", etc. Their final decision is rendered as GO or NO GO. When deciding whether it was safe to remain on the moon after the Apollo 11 landing, it was actually a STAY / NO STAY poll, to avoid any confusion between go = okay and go = leave. – hobbs Dec 9 '15 at 2:26
  • @hobbs I hadn't heard that (or maybe I did but forgot) -- makes a lot of sense. – StoneyB Dec 9 '15 at 2:34
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It's military slang, if you use this outside of the context of the American military, you've only got about a fifty percent chance of people understanding it. There are pounds and pounds of this stuff, a whole new vocabulary developed from years and years of large amounts of people all taking the same training and telling the same kind of stories.

"Is go" is short for "ready to go", I think through something called the go code? As such, your rephrasing doesn't work. Only actors can be ready to go, not the actions. The two phrases developed in different directions.

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    It's not just military terminology. The variant "all systems are go" should be familiar to anyone who's ever watched a spacecraft take off. – Mark Dec 8 '15 at 22:31
  • Anyone who's ever watched the TV show 'Thunderbirds' (for which read most of the population of the UK) will understand it. "Thunderbirds are go!" – ssav Dec 9 '15 at 10:34

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