From my experience in the field I would say that code is the most overused misunderstood word. Early in my construction career I heard this word thrown around. It was and is referenced often with true meaning and good advice.
However it has also been used as a conversation ending to a dispute from the Ivory Tower “Thou shalt not doubt in me for I am the reference of thy Code and cannot be denied”. It is from these sources that I have issue. I have found that often times what some people think is code is not, and what is code is misunderstood by many. Throwing the word code in the above fashion as a scare tactic can and often will backfire.
The best definition for code I have ever heard was from a city inspector who told me “code is what I tell you it is”. It has always been my belief that you do what the man with the pen tells you to do as it makes life simpler. I am not saying that it is not worth now and again referring to a code book and asking the inspector politely “This is how I see this, will you buy into it?” However arguing over code with an inspector is generally futile.
I think it is important to remember code changes from country to country, state to state, city to city, inspector to inspector and even the same inspector from yesterday to today. I think it wise to keep the code card in your pocket and always remember code a four letter word.