Spelling alphabet

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A spelling alphabet, voice procedure alphabet, radio alphabet, or telephone alphabet is a set of words used to stand for the letters of an alphabet in oral communication.

Each word in the spelling alphabet typically replaces the name of the letter with which it starts (acrophony). It is used to spell out words when speaking to someone not able to see the speaker, or when the audio channel is not clear. The lack of high frequencies on standard telephones makes it hard to distinguish an 'F' from an 'S' for example. Also, the lack of visual cues during oral communication can cause confusion. For example, lips are closed at the start of saying the letter "bee" but open at the beginning of the letter "dee" making these otherwise similar sounding letters more easily discriminated when looking at the speaker. Without these visual cues, such as during announcements of airline gate numbers "B1" and "D1" at an airport, "B" may be confused with "D" by the listener. Spelling out one's name, a password or a ticker symbol over the telephone are other scenarios where a spelling alphabet is useful.

A spelling alphabet is also often called a phonetic alphabet, especially by amateur radio enthusiasts,[1] recreational sailors[2] in the US and Australia, and NATO military organizations.[3] However, this conflicts with the usage of the same phrase in phonetics to mean a notation used for phonetic transcription or phonetic spelling, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is used to indicate the sounds of human speech.

Voice procedure[edit]

See also: Voice procedure

Spelling alphabets are especially useful when speaking in a noisy environment when clarity and promptness of communication is essential, for example during two-way radio communication between an aircraft pilot and air traffic control, or in military operations. Whereas the names of many letters sound alike, the set of replacement words can be selected to be as distinct from each other as possible, to minimise the likelihood of ambiguity or mistaking one letter for another. For example, if a burst of static cuts off the start of an English-language utterance of the letter J, it may be mistaken for A or K. In the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet known as the ICAO (or NATO) phonetic alphabet, the sequence J-A-K would be pronounced Juliet-Alpha-Kilo. Some voice procedure standards require numbers to be spelled out digit by digit, so some spelling alphabets replace confusable digit names with more distinct alternatives; for example, the NATO alphabet has "niner" for 9 to distinguish it better from 5 and the German word "nein".

History[edit]

Prior to spelling alphabets, the words used to indicate English letters were "a", "bee", "cee", "dee", "e", etc. Their sounds are difficult to discriminate orally, hence the invention of telephone alphabets, and eventually radio alphabets,[citation needed] as used by armed services. Confusion of the oral indication of letters is not dangerous in most common situations, but in military applications it can have lethal consequences. Prior to radio and telephone, telegraph required no telephone alphabet because morse code served the same purpose and did not rely on human utterance of letters.

British Army signallers began using a partial spelling alphabet in the late 19th century. Recorded in the 1898 "Signalling Instruction" issued by the War Office and followed by the 1904 Signalling Regulations[4] this system differentiated only the letters most frequently misunderstood: Ack (originally "Ak") Beer (or Bar) C D E F G H I J K L eMma N O Pip Q R eSses Toc U Vic W X Y Z. This alphabet was the origin of phrases such as "ack-ack" (A.A. for anti-aircraft), "pip-emma" for pm and Toc H for an ex-servicemen association. It was developed on the Western Front of the First World War. The RAF developed their "Telephony Spelling Alphabet" which was adopted by all three services, and civil aviation in the UK from 1921.

It was later formally codified to provide a phonetic equivalent for all 26 letters (see comparative tabulation of military alphabets before 1956).

For the general populace, and finance professionals in particular, phonetic alternatives such as "November" for the letter N and "Kilo" for the letter K were considered too long or obscure, and an alternative alphabet arose. Common first names were a popular choice, and as a result the First Name Alphabet (possibly first compiled by a US financial firm[citation needed]) has become quite commonly used.

Examples[edit]

Latin alphabets[edit]

The following examples are from various languages and time periods.[5]

Letter NATO phonetic alphabet US Financial British Forces 1952 RAF 1942–43 LAPD French German (DIN 5009) Dutch Italian Spanish Swedish Danish Norwegian Finnish Turkish[6] European Portuguese Brazilian Portuguese Romanian Czech
A Alfa Adam Able Apple Adam Anatole Anton Anton Ancona Antonio Adam Anna Anna Aarne Adana Aveiro Amor Ana Adam
Ä - - - - - - Ärger - - - Ärlig - - Äiti - - - - -
Å - - - - - - - - - - Åke Aase Åse Åke - - - - -
Æ - - - - - - - - - - - Ægir Ærlig - - - - - -
B Bravo Bob Baker Beer Boy Berthe Berta Bernard Bologna Burgos Bertil Bernhard Bernhard Bertta Bolu Braga Bandeira Barbu Božena
C Charlie Carol Charlie Charlie Charles Célestin Cäsar Cornelis Como Carmen Caesar Cecilie Caesar Celsius Ceyhan Coimbra Cobra Costică Cyril
Ç - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Çanakkale - - - -
Ch - - - - - - Charlotte - - Chocolate - - - - - - - - -
D Delta David Dog Dog David Désiré Dora Dirk Domodossola Dolores David David David Daavid Denizli Dafundo Dado Dumitru David
E Echo Eddie Easy Edward Edward Eugène Emil Eduard Empoli Enrique Erik Erik Edith Eemeli Edirne Évora Estrela Elena Emil
F Foxtrot Frank Fox Freddy Frank François Friedrich Ferdinand Firenze Francia Filip Frederik Fredrik Faarao Fatsa Faro Feira Florică František
G Golf George George George George Gaston Gustav Gerard Genova Granada Gustav Georg Gustav Gideon Giresun Guarda Goiaba Gheorghe Gustav
Ğ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Yumuşak G[Note 1] - - - -
H Hotel Harry How Harry Henry Henri Heinrich Hendrik Hotel Historia Helge Hans Harald Heikki Hatay Horta Hotel Horia Helena
I India Ike Item In Ida Irma Ida Izaak Imola Inés Ivar Ida Ivar Iivari Isparta Itália Índio Ilie Ivan
İ - - Indigo - - - - - - - - - - - İzmir - - - -
J Juliett Jim Jig Jug / Johnny John Joseph Julius Julius Jolly José Johan Johan Johan Jussi Jandarma José José Jean Josef
K Kilo Kenny King King King Kléber Kaufmann Karel Kappa[Note 1] Kilo Kalle Karen Karin Kalle Kars Kodak Kiwi Kappa / kilogram Karel
L Lima Larry Love Love Lincoln Louis Ludwig Lodewijk Livorno Lorenzo Ludvig Ludvig Ludvig Lauri Lüleburgaz Lisboa Lua Lazăr / Lenuța Ludvik
Ll - - - - - - - - - Llave - - - - - - - - -
M Mike Mary Mike Mother Mary Marcel Martha Maria Milano Madrid Martin Mari Martin Matti Muş Maria Maria Maria Marie
N November Nancy Nan Nuts Nora Nicolas Nordpol Nico Napoli Navarra Niklas Nikolaj Nils Niilo Niğde Nazaré Navio Nicolae ( Nae ?) Norbert
Ñ - - - - - - - - - Ñoño - - - - - - - - -
O Oscar Oliver Oboe Orange Ocean Oscar Otto Otto Otranto Oviedo Olof Odin Olivia Otto Ordu Ovar Ouro Olga Otakar
Ö - - - - - - Ökonom - - - Östen - - Öljy Ödemiş - - - -
Ø - - - - - - - - - - - Øresund Østen - - - - - -
P Papa Peter Peter Peter Paul Pierre Paula Pieter Padova París Petter Peter Petter Paavo Polatlı Porto Pipa Petrică Petr
Q Quebec Quincy Queen Queen Queen Quintal Quelle Quotiënt Quadro Querido Quintus Quintus Quintus Kuu[Note 1] - Queluz Quilombo  ??? Quido
R Romeo Roger Roger Roger / Robert Robert Raoul Richard Richard Roma Ramón Rudolf Rasmus Rikard Risto Rize Rossio Raiz Radu / Rodica Rudolf
S Sierra Sam Sugar Sugar Sam Suzanne Samuel Simon Savona Sábado Sigurd Søren Sigrid Sakari Sinop Setúbal Saci Sandu Svatopluk
Ş - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Şırnak - - - -
Sch - - - - - - Schule - - - - - - - - - - - -
ß - - - - - - Eszett[Note 1] - - - - - - - - - - - -
T Tango Thomas Tare Tommy Tom Thérèse Theodor Theodor Torino Toledo Tore Theodor Teodor Tyyne Tokat Tavira Tatu Tudor Tomáš
U Uniform Uncle Uncle Uncle Union Ursule Ulrich Utrecht Udine Ulises Urban Ulla Ulrik Urho Uşak Unidade Uva Udrea Urban
Ü - - - - - - Übermut - - - Übel - - - Ünye - - - -
V Victor Vincent Victor Vic Victor Victor Viktor Victor Venezia Valencia Viktor Viggo Enkelt-V Vihtori Van Vidago Vitória Vasile Vaclav
W Whiskey William William William William William Wilhelm Willem Washington Washington Wilhelm William Dobbelt-W[Note 1] Wiski - Waldemar Wilson Walter / dublu-v dvojité V
X X-ray Xavier X-ray X-ray X-ray Xavier Xanthippe Xanthippe Ics,[Note 1] Xeres, Xilofono Xilófono Xerxes Xerxes Xerxes Äksä[Note 1] Xader Xavier Xadrez Xenia, ics Xaver
IJ - - - - - - - IJmuiden - - - - - - - - - - -
Y Yankee Yogi Yoke Yoke / Yorker Young Yvonne Ypsilon[Note 1] Ypsilon[Note 1] York, yacht Yegua Yngve Yrsa Yngling Yrjö Yozgat York Yolanda i-grec Ypsilon
Z Zulu Zachary Zebra Zebra Zebra Zoé Zacharias Zaandam Zara Zaragoza Zeta[Note 1] Zackarias Zakarias Tseta[Note 1] Zonguldak Zulmira Zebra Zoe Zuzana

Other alphabets[edit]

The Greek spelling alphabet is a spelling alphabet for the Greek language, i.e. a set of names used in lieu of alphabet letters for the purpose of spelling out words. It is used by the Greek armed and emergency services.

The Russian spelling alphabet is a spelling alphabet for the Russian version of the Cyrillic alphabet.

The PGP word list, the Bubble Babble wordlist used by ssh-keygen, and the S/KEY dictionary, are spelling alphabets for public key fingerprints (or other binary data) -- i.e., a set of names given to data bytes for the purpose of spelling out binary data in a clear and unambiguous way via a voice channel.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k This is simply the ordinary name of the letter.

References[edit]

External links[edit]