Spelling Alphabets

After my difficulties last week with Californian hotels, today I had similar problems confirming a booking reference by telephone in Estonia. Again, there was considerable confusion as every time I said ‘N’, they heard ‘M’. Then, when I got them to understand ‘N’, they thought I was offering that as the next character. We tried to use the phonetic alphabet to untangle this, but I got stuck really quickly as the next character was ‘Y’ and I couldn’t think what that was.

After the call I went to look it up, and discovered lots of interesting things in passing:

  • Pre-WWII a different alphabet was used, consisting of place names: Amsterdam Baltimore Casablanca Denmark Edison Florida Gallipoli, etc.
  • The version we use now mostly came into being in 1941, but in 1956 5 letters were changed: Coca, Metro, Nectar, Union, and eXtra.
  • German also has Ärger, Öse, and Übel, and Denmark adds Ægir, Ødis, and Åse
  • US Airports sometimes use Dixie for D, as it’s a little confusing with Delta being a major airline
  • In Indonesia they use London for L, as ‘lima’ is Indonesian for the number 5
  • in Japan, B is often Baker as Bravo is difficult to say

When I mentioned my problem to Karen, she couldn’t remember what Y was either, so suggested YouTube. Phonetic Alphabet 2.0, anyone?

2 thoughts on “Spelling Alphabets

  1. No phonetic alphabet is complete without “mnemonic” for “m”. Other choice words include phonetic, yttrium, aegis, xylophone, geriatric and oedipus.

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