Wednesday, July 8, 2020

P as in Predicament, B as in Barbiturate, O as in Ophthalmologist

Somewhere in the back of my mind I think we may have talked about this before, long ago perhaps, but we're going to talk about it again.

Words people use to help others understand how something is spelled. Some people call them "phonetic alphabets" but that is actually a misnomer.

What brought this to the fore was an article I read recently, "It Might Be Time to Update the Old 'Alfa-Bravo-Charlie' Spelling Alphabet".

Read it. You might enjoy it.

What caught my eye was the word "Old" in the title. To my way of thinking, the "Alfa-Bravo-Charlie-(Delta-Echo-Foxtrot)" sequence is the new one, not the old one. I learned it in the U.S. Air Force, where it was called the NATO phonetic alphabet (okay, so it was way back in the sixties). The "old" one to me is the one everybody used before the sixties, during World War II: Able-Baker-Charlie-Dog-Easy-Fox and so forth.

When I say "everybody" I mean people in the United States. Of course, there was the occasional crazy divergence. I once heard comedian Shelley Berman say "N as in Newel Post" in one of his routines (unless it was "K as in Knewel Post" that he said, which would have been funnier).

I like to make up my own, the more obscure the better. You might say "B as in Boyfriend, G as in Girlfriend, M as in Merry Christmas" but I prefer to say "B as in Blitzkrieg, G as in Gargantuan, M as in Multitudinous". And therein lies the key, I think, to making oneself understood over a bad telephone connection. Use less-frequently heard words for your examples and the person on the other end of the connection will be more likely to understand.

Yeah, that's the ticket! (T as in Thermonuclear, H as in Happenstance, E as in Eucalyptus....)

Do tell us in a comment your favorite (British, favourite) ways to spell phonetically.

8 comments:

  1. Apple, Bulldog, Cat, Darling, Echo, Frank, Girl, Help, Iceberg, Jump, Kellogg, Laugh, Mary, No, Ostrich, Party, Question, Rusty, Sally, Talk, Universal, Victor, William, X-ray, Yesterday, Zebra

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Emma, I see that you retained Echo, Victor, and X-ray from the NATO alphabet. I probably would have ended with Zanzibar or Zimbabwe or Zasu Pitts.

      Delete
  2. Apple,banana,cherry,dewberry,eggplant,fig, grape, honeydew, iceberg, jicama,kiwi,
    lemon,mango, nectarine, orange,pineapple,quince,radish,strawberry,
    tomato, ugli fruit, Vidalia onion, watermelon,ximenia, yucca, zucchini

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kahy, all vegetables! I never heard of ximenia; had to look it up. May I suggest E for edamame?

      Delete
  3. There was some tv show I once watched which had it's own phonetic alphabet, it used to be jarring to hear it as I was familiar with the old/new NATO one.

    apple, breech, chocolate, dog, egg, fox, goat, hotel, india, jukebox, killer, lemon, melt, nelly, opal, paradise, queue (i just like typing that) rodent, steve (remember the funny video?) tunnel, uranium, vase, watch, x-ray, yellow, zero

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. kylie, you have dog and fox from the World War II-era list, and you retained hotel, india, and x-ray from the NATO list. I don't remember the funny video.

      Delete
  4. I don't like change when it involves thinking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Graham, I don't believe you for one minute. Thinking is your strong suit.

      Delete

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