(See photos)

TIC TAC operators run nip-and-tuck with signaling British motorists and Roman traffic police as the greatest arm wavers in the world.

Tic Tac is the semaphore system (without flags) used at race tracks by British bookmakers.

It all looks very frantic and perplexing as the white-gloved "floormen" flash the cryptic code back and forth with the "top man" high in the main stand.

Tic Tac, which combines the speed of a nervous twitch and the swiftness of tachygraphy, started some 80 years ago, we are told, in Australia, when bookmakers' runners got tired and too far behind while dashing about the track trying to keep abreast of all the important bets.

"A system of time-saving signals," it was decided, "was the obvious solution to the problem."

"As it stands today," say the experts, "the Tic Tac system is complete in every detail, and the men who use it have by long practice become so proficient that they can send out the sign messages faster than you or I can speak. Market moves are the main topic of Tic Tac conversation, for bookmakers all over the course want to know what is happening in the main ring, how prices are fluctuating, and so on. Every market move is known all over the course within a second or two." Who needs a computer!

Some clever Tic Tac men are so fast that they can serve two or three bookmakers at once, with wads of dough depending upon every move. There's no room for mistakes. A Tic Tac man once brushed a fly from his nose and caused all sorts of skyrockets, since right hand to the nose means No. 2, which on that day happened to be a rank outsider and the signaler had just flashed news of a big bet.

The code is mainly broken down into signs for the numbers of the horses or dogs as they appear on the secret Tic Tac race card and for numbers involved in simple odds. Special signs are used for fractional odds. Fingertips of both hands touching means 11-10, spreading the left palm downward and bringing the right hand across the back of the left hand in a looping motion is 6-5, and placing the side of the right hand at the wrist of the drooping left hand, with both palms in, is 5-4. Other fractional odds involve such maneuvers as running the right hand up and down the left arm, right hand touching the left ear, right hand touching the left shoulder, both hands on head, both hands to cheeks and both hands across chest. A "V" sig means a message has been received loud and clear.

EXAMPLES of movements depicting numbers include touching the top of the head with the tips of the right fingers (for number 1), right hand touching nose (2), right hand under chin (3) and moving the right forefinger in a semicircular motion at elbow level (4).

Tic Tac has waved goodby at at least one greyhound track in Britain. At Leigh-on-Sea, Ian Richardson and his brother-in-law, decided to keep in touch with each other, using a two-way radio linkup.

According to Richardson, "It makes life easier. We don't feel so tired."

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