DFHC 11/17/2011

Ask Cool delta-alpha-delta-delta-yankee

Dear Cool Daddy: Whatever happened to the Able-Baker-Charlie phonetic alphabet I grew up with? Now everything is Alpha-Bravo-altho-still-Charlie …from X-Ray in Xanadu Falls, SD

Dear Cool Daddy: Any idea why we say “Roger” to mean “Affirmative” or  “I understand”?  from Roy in Tierra Del Fuego

Dear X-Ray and Roy: Today I’ll kill 2 birds with one stone. But if I might make a slight correction…what we’re talking about, commonly called a “phonetic alphabet,” is more technically referred to as a “spelling alphabet”…a “phonetic alphabet” is an expanded set of symbols, ideally one unique symbol per “sound,” used to universally encode the pronunciation of any word in any language. For instance, the International Phonetic Alphabet looks like this when in full-bloom…

But a “spelling alphabet” is a development of radio communication, and an ironic one at that. For the sake of brevity and convenience, you abbreviate a long phrase with just the first letters of each word…but since some letters are easily mistaken for others, especially if transmission is less than optimal, the single letters must be expanded back into words. Thus the end result may or may not in fact be a simplification…taking a random example:  United States of America  >>>  USA  >>> Uniform Sierra Alpha. So in this case, you’ve pretty much defeated the purpose…the true simplification is in the fact that now all words beginning with U would be said as “uniform.” To this extant, given English is the global language of aviation, you can in principle get by knowing only 26 words of it, assuming most all of it is first abbreviated…ETA for example being one of the few that has gained currency among the general public.

Spelling Alphabets came into use in the 1920s, and the one you’re familiar with was called The Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet, developed in 1941 to replace and consolidate the varied and conflicting alphabets used by different branches of and organizations within the US armed forces. And that’s your Able-Baker-Charlie…

Because of our leadership in WWII, it was used, with slight variations, all over the world. But still, nobody’s ever satisfied, so a new alphabet was proposed by the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1956, and it was soon adopted by everybody in every country, including NATO, the FAA, our military forces, police and fire departments, ham radio operators, you name it…and that’s the Alpha-Bravo-Charlie version….altho I’m still waiting for somebody to declare that Zulu-for-Z is “racist”… 😉 😉

But you may have noticed that in the 1941-56 version, it was Roger-for-R…and in this case, R stood for “Received”…as in “Message Received,” so there’s your answer.


Podcasts at http://stolfpod.podbean.com  and   http://thewholething.podbean.com

Deep Fried Hoods Cups Daily Blog:    https://deepfriedhoodsiecups.wordpress.com/

Other Daily Blog at http://stolf.wordpress.com  (the legendary Stolf’s Blog)

More bloggage at  http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com  and  http://www.examiner.com/retro-pop-culture-in-watertown/mark-john-astolfi

Updated Resume at http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com/p/resume.html

Audio samples at  http://stolfspots.podbean.com

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