Wednesday, April 18, 2012

EH? What Did You Say?

Thought for the day:  "Windy," said one man. "No, Thursday," said the other. "Yeah, I am too," said the first. "Let's go get a drink."

[THEME: Amateur radio]

Years ago, when I told my parents a co-worker's 13-year-old daughter had V.D., my father harumphed and said, "I'll bet she smokes, too."

Trust me, he wasn't at all amused by how hard my mother and I laughed at the absurdity of his response.

See, he thought I said T.B.

Too bad we didn't use the PHONETIC ALPHABET.

Because many letters sound so similar, usage of a standard phonetic alphabet alleviates misconceptions and clarifies communications. Radio conditions aren't always ideal, and the accuracy of messages, especially following a disaster, can be of vital importance. The international phonetic alphabet used by amateur radio operators follows:

  • ECHO
  • GULF
  • KILO
  • LIMA
  • MIKE
  • PAPA
  • XRAY
  • ZULU

                                 (So, that young girl had victor delta, NOT tango bravo.)

No trees were killed in the sending of this message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.


  1. My wife and I play this game; it gets us through the day!

  2. You always make learning so much fun. I was going to say I live in "MT" in radiospeak but is the M regular? Would it be M Tango?

  3. Very clear post. Happy A-Zing

  4. Jessica- Glad ya liked it. Thanks for stopping by.

    Cro- HA! I know what you mean. My husband and I are pretty good at that game, too.

    Manzie- Ooops! I left the M out. (Now, how did I do that?) Thanks for pointing it out to me. (ahem) Now, that it's been fixed, the phonetics for MT are "mike tango."

    Wanda- Thanks for stopping by, and a very happy A-Zing to you, too.

  5. How terrible to inconvenience those electrons!

  6. Imagine holding a whole conversation that way...

  7. I should try that on hubby, as he has not understood me for years.

  8. Hhaahhahaa! Brilliant.

    What's that? Cheesecake?

  9. I should have looked up that list and used it as a source for topics in the A to Z challenge!

  10. I wish more people would learn the IPA, because I am forever having to spell my full name over the phone and I have to go through so many words before the understand what letter I actually mean. Argh.

    I saw magic time click over this morning but just couldn't make it downstairs to the computer to read. I was late to the party. :)

  11. 'No trees were killed in the sending of this message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.'

    I have always liked that little bit.

    I had 'Romeo' in the title of a draft of a manuscript I was working on -- taken from its usage in the phonetic alphabet.

  12. Great post, Susan! I laughed at the "Victor-Delta" vs "Tango-Bravo" line!

    I can never remember the official words, so unless I look them up first, I end up looking like an idiot when I try to incorporate them as cop-speak in my writing: "This is unit GOLDILOCKS-RUTABAGA-TIPTOE thirty-seven responding to the call..."


  13. Hi Susan .. gosh we could have fun here - it's bad enough in normal life .. to add in all the other types - we'd be a right mess .. perhaps we are with text around.

    Love the story .. cheers Hilary

  14. Suppose the recipient of said code doesn't speak English? What then?

  15. It's sad in a way, especially when your partner has a hearing loss. My husband and I do laugh when he mis-hears what I say and it comes out entirely wrong, just like your illustration.

  16. Linda- I know; how terribly inconsiderate of me, eh? Hey! It's only Thursday, lady... get back to work on that manuscript!

    Delores- Yeah, that'd be a major pain in the tush, but when, say, you want to communicate the name of a particular medication needed by someone in a shelter, spelling it this way is the easiest way to make sure the information is conveyed properly.

    Arleen- Not sure it helps between spouses. Those "wife filters" have a tendency to lead to selective hearing ...

    Carrie- Yes! Cheesecake!!(Please?)

    G- There's always next year. (But your topics this year are already top notch.)

    Skippy- You're right; it'd be a lot easier if everyone knew the IPA, but since they don't, when I have to spell my name to someone on the telephone, I generally use words everyone is familiar with, like "D as in dog." Oh, and you were late to the party. It just started without us.

    Suze- I love that tag line about inconvenienced electrons, too, and used to use it at the end of all my amateur radio newsletters. Some other hams told me they started using the line at the end of their emails, too, but had to drop the part about electrons because they grew tired of having to explain it.

    Chris- HA! Don't feel bad; some hams get a little "creative" with the phonetics at times, too. Not a good idea when trying to relay important information, but there's no harm in playing with them for comic effect. My call sign is AF4FO, and some of the guys used to call me "foxy operator" on the air, which I didn't encourage, but I must admit, hearing that did make me smile. (And I may or may not have occasionally said, "Far Out!" for my phonetics when checking into a local net.) 'Course, you don't wanta have your police using wacky phonetics...

    Hilary- Glad ya liked the story, dear lady.

    Mr. C- No problem. English is the accepted standard for international contacts.

  17. Loverofwords- I know what you mean. I'm the one in our house with the hearing loss, and as the doctor explained, when we don't actually hear every word, our brains fill in the blanks for us. That can lead to some funny misunderstandings at times. (Funny to me, anyhow; my husband isn't always amused ...)

  18. Enjoyable post.

    I remember using the phonetic alphabet in a previous job and it was so useful. My accent isn't always the easiest to understand so this made life a lot easier.

    Very good blog. Good luck with the rest of the challenge :)

  19. David- You're right; using phonetics is especially helpful when an accent is involved. Thanks for stopping by, dear sir. And good luck to you for the rest of the challenge, too.

  20. Hilarious. I don't have the best hearing and I appreciate a little help.


  21. Extremely humorous- the opening lines and the caption - Sure I'll have a beer. Kinda' like the Marx Bros with dollars, taxes for Dallas Tx.
    I was so used to Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog that in the Army the Sgts were always correcting me, like on multiple choice question answers.
    Good post. Thanks.

  22. Great post, Susan. Bravo --or as gender demands, Brava!

  23. This sounds very similar to navy talk. My dad was in the navy and my parents used to speak like this when they didn't want us to understand them. It drove me crazy, but of course my brother figured it out! Julie

  24. Janie- Maybe it isn't our hearing at all... maybe everybody ELSE is just mumbling. No, huh? Oh, well. Glad to give you a chuckle.

    Anthony- The phonetic alphabet has morphed over the years, and at one time it WAS able and baker, so you weren't entirely wrong. Your sarge was just a stickler.

    Momto8- Great! Glad you enjoyed it.

    Geo- Hey, I don't mind "bravo". Heck, I don't even mind being called a dude.

    Julie- The military also uses a phonetic alphabet, and pretty much for the same reasons radio operators use them. Clarifies things, and also helps you confuse your daughter.