It's been a while since I've read much Heinlein, and I'm sure some will say I should be ashamed for not remembering this, but I remember there was a recognition code or greeting for members of the Howard families in Heinlein's works, but I can't remember what it was.

I think it started with something like, "The days are short," or something about life and days and one being short or long, but I can't remember the rest and it's not easily found with a search engine.

What is the recognition code the Howard families use?

  • 4
    Don't tell him! Good grief! We keep it secret for a reason! -- Ugh; now he'll be able to get into the meetings.. read the secret bulletin board.. get discounts at our Family Stores... sigh
    – K-H-W
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 16:54

1 Answer 1


The call and response was:

Caller: Life is short.

Responder: But the years are long.

Caller: Not while the evil days come not.

  • Thank you! This was driving me crazy and once I read it, I knew it was right.
    – Tango
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 0:40
  • 4
    It's mentioned in Methuselah's Children and Time Enough for Love.
    – Pixel
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 0:59

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