What Does 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' Mean? It's Not As Complicated As You Might Think

In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Tina Fey stars as journalist Kim Baker, who goes overseas to Pakistan and Afghanistan to cover the war during Operation Enduring Freedom. While a war-set drama might not sound like your typical Fey-starring film, the movie is being described as more of a dramedy, striking the same funny but true tone of The Taliban Shuffle, the memoir upon which it is based. Kim Barker (not to be confused with the fictional Kim Baker), wrote the book after spending five years working as the South Asia bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune, and her fish-out-of-water account of adjusting to life as a foreign war correspondent was even described by The New York Times as Tina Fey-esque in its 2011 review. So, with a big screen adaptation on the way, why change the name from The Taliban Shuffle to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? And, more importantly, what does Whiskey Tango Foxtrot even mean?

Knowing the plot, I assumed Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was some kind of secret military code. Maybe like the secret service name you might give a (fictional) president's three children, or perhaps just a really clever code for alcohol. But, upon further reflection, I realized that that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot can be shortened to WTF. Possibly the Internet's most beloved acronym, WTF stands for "What The F*ck," which is probably what any journalist who suddenly volunteers to be sent overseas, despite her lack of experience, would ask herself. Now it made far more sense.

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The movie's title actually comes from the military alphabet — or the NATO alphabet specifically — which uses distinctive words to sound out letters — like Alpha for "A" or Bravo for "B." If you said "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot" over the radio, it would mean WTF. So, yeah, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn't really mean anything too deep. Unfortunately, it's not some brilliant coded message about what happens in the movie — though the fact that Fey's character drinks a lot of whiskey when she's not reporting from the battlefield might just play a part, as well.

Images: Paramount Pictures