A Tip From Ben Stiller: On Set, A 'Chicken' Is Not What It Seems To kick off the series "Trade Lingo," the actor decodes terms distinctive to filmmaking. He shares the meanings behind such cryptic phrases as "10-100" and "chicken in the gate."

A Tip From Ben Stiller: On Set, A 'Chicken' Is Not What It Seems

A Tip From Ben Stiller: On Set, A 'Chicken' Is Not What It Seems

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When Ben Stiller hears "chicken in the gate," rarely does he actually present someone with a live chicken. Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

When Ben Stiller hears "chicken in the gate," rarely does he actually present someone with a live chicken.

Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

Each line of work has its own cryptic code: words and phrases that would baffle any outsider. These terms may sound like nonsense to someone with untrained ears, but to those who operate in a certain world, their meanings are as clear as day.

To get a better handle on some of the stranger things people say at work, All Things Considered is kicking off a new series called "Trade Lingo." It's a quest to mine the jewels of meaning beneath the jargon.

In our first installment, Ben Stiller spoke to NPR's Melissa Block about two of the insider's terms you'll probably hear on a movie set — and just about nowhere else. In one of his examples, Stiller explains "check the gate":

"At the end of every take, once you say, 'Print it, moving on,' they'll say, 'Check the gate.' ... Basically, it's saying that we're finished; and then that gets sometimes, uh, changed into 'chicken in the gate.' "

Hear Stiller's full explanation — and the rest of their conversation — at the audio link, and use the form below to share your own examples of trade lingo. What's the "chicken in the gate" from your line of work?


Now an adventure into the cryptic world of language and we're going to need your help. Something got me thinking about words that are really specific to a particular line of work, you know, phrases that are kind of a secret code that nobody else would understand - but everyone in that world would know exactly what you're talking about. Well from that germ another occasional...


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: All Things Considered Series.

BLOCK: Is born. We're calling it trade lingo. And we're going to kick it off today staying in the world of movies. A while back I was interviewing the actor and director Ben Stiller. And I asked him what filmmaking lingo might fit this bill - an insider's term from the movie set.

BEN STILLER: Do people use the term 10-100?

BLOCK: I have no idea what that means.

STILLER: Someone's gone 10-100, they've gone to the bathroom on a movie set.

BLOCK: Why is it 10-100?

STILLER: I have no idea.

BLOCK: Oh, come on. (Laughing).

STILLER: I honestly don't know. It's 10-100. It's like some sort of code. I thought it related to some military code or something. They go - you go, you know, where's Ben? He's 10-1. 10-1 is short for 10-100.

BLOCK: Oh. It's even shortened?

STILLER: Yeah. It's 10-1.

BLOCK: Well, we checked and we can now let Ben Stiller know that 10-100 actually comes from CB radio talk. You know, like 10-4 means OK. 10-100 is a bathroom stop. And then Stiller thought of another term of the trade.

STILLER: Here's something that relates to going to digital and digital filmmaking now. Where pretty much film is going away but at the end of a take, basically when you say, printed and we're moving on, the first assistant director will go check the gate. And check the gate means to look literally at the gate of the film camera where the film passes in front of the lens to make sure there aren't any hairs in there because if there's a hair or dust it would scratch the film. That's all become obsolete because now digital technology can clean all that up but still at the end of every take - once you said printed, moving on, they'll say check the gate.

BLOCK: They'll just say it even though nobody has to do it?

STILLER: No. Then the camera-man will do some version of checking it but basically it's saying that we're finished. And then that gets sometimes changed into chicken in the gate.


STILLER: Chicken in the gate.

BLOCK: OK. Now we want to know - what's your version of chicken in the gate from your line of work. Please send us your trade lingo on Twitter and Facebook were at NPR@ATC. More ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, coming up right after this.

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