Knowing the Phonetic Alphabet

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    Have you ever had to give an address or other significant information that required spelling over the phone to another person? This is something that can go off without a hitch if the information you are sharing is all spoken clearly and easily spelled, but we are not always so lucky. As creative street names pop up all around us, spelling them is not always the easiest thing, whether or not you are on the giving or receiving end.

    This is equally difficult if you live in an area settled by people who spoke another language which still carries names given to it in that language that is foreign to you. Take for instance Louisiana. With streets with names such as Esplanade, Chartres, Barrone, and Carondelet, people are bound to struggle with spellings from time to time. Sure, we can all spell Bourbon Street, but what about Telemachus or Toulouse? I lived in Calcasieu Parish many moons ago and have to think about it each time I spell it even to this day.

    When you consider the difficulty of conveying to others the names and spellings of streets and towns, it becomes obvious quite quickly that there has to be an easier way. No one wants to use the Sesame Street clarification system where A is for Apple and B is for boy-or was that T is for toy? Did you say D as in dog or B as in bog? Confusion can quickly escalate.

    This is why, when sharing important information over the phone or other communications, it is important to understand and use a phonetic alphabet that is known and accepted, such as the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. This has been adapted for ease of communication. It works by assigning a specific word to each letter, words that are clear and concise when spoken. Best of all, none of the words rhyme, so there will be no confusing boy and toy with joy and coy.

    Using the phonetic alphabet is one thing, but you should know it even if you do not think you will ever use it (you might be wrong about that!). Perhaps you are stranded after TEOTWAWKI and scanning for a radio signal. Maybe you will come across an obscure radio station relaying important information. Due to static, you may not be able to decipher individual letters, but you can pick up whole words. It is important that you recognize the words associated with the phonetic alphabet so you are immediately able to understand what is being relayed. When you hear the word 'Bravo' you need to know it has something to do with the letter B rather than a call for applause.

    The NATO Phonetic Alphabet is listed below. Learn it. Use it. Love it. Never leave home without it.


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