To read an article from the print magazine online, please enter the web code below, which can be found in the magazine under the article.

https://www.getdigital.de - Gadgets und mehr für Computerfreaks

Telephoning: Spelling out unfamiliar words on the telephone

S for sugar, F for Freddy

The lack of high frequencies on standard telephone lines makes it hard to distinguish an ‘F’ from an ‘S’ while rhyming letters like ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘G’, ‘T’ and ‘V’ are easily confused. Which word someone uses for a particular letter can depend on where they grew up. While most English people say F for Freddy after the British Royal Navy alphabet used in the First World War, American speakers are more likely to say Frank after the AT&T alphabet from the same period. Speakers from both countries, however, agree on G for George, even though the official ICAO code word is Golf.

M for mother, N for nobody

Popular choices over the years have been names and countries. If you find yourself spelling out words to someone over the telephone, don’t worry if you don’t know the official alphabet. As long as you pick an easily understandable word that starts with the letter you want to communicate there should be no problem.

The table below shows how spelling alphabets have evolved over the years:

Symbol1914 British Post Office1917 AT&TICAO 19321941-1956 Joint US Army/NavyICAO 1969 to present
AAppleAliceAmsterdam  AbleAlfa
BBrotherBerthaBaltimore  BakerBravo
CCharlieCharlesCasablanca  CharlieCharlie
DDover David Denmark   DogDelta
EEasternEdwardEdison  EasyEcho
FFatherFrankFlorida  FoxFoxtrot
GGeorgeGeorgeGallipolli  GeorgeGolf
HHarryHenryHavana  How Hotel
IIndiaIdaItalia  ItemIndia
JJackJamesJerusalem  JigJuliett
KKingKateKilogramme  KongKilo
LLondonLouisLiverpool  LoveLima
MMotherMaryMadgascar  MikeMike
NNovemberNellyNew York  NanNovember
OOctoberOliverOslo  OboeOscar
PPeterPeterParis  PeterPapa
QQueenQuakerQuebec  QueenQuebec
RRobretRobertRoma  RogerRomeo
SSugarSamuelSantiago  SugarSierra


UUncleUtahUpsala  UncleUniform
VVictoriaVictorValencia  VictorVictor
WWednesdayWilliamWashington  WilliamWhiskey
XXmasX-rayXanthippe  X-rayX-ray


ZZebraZebraZurich  ZebraZulu
Rate this article