In the UK, when on the phone with a customer service rep and they ask me to spell my first and last name, I say Terianne – T as in “terrible” and when I get to my last name, Falcone, I say F as in Frank (my pop’s name).
But I notice when they read it back to me they always say T as in Tango, F as in Foxtrot. And I think, Since when are Brits so into dance? However, when I have to give the Apple support guy my Mac serial number on the phone, he confirms two letters with non-dance words, specifically Mike and Charlie. Dances and monosyllabic guys’ names…? Hmm. At least I can recognize the words. When I lived in Italy and had spellings confirmed over the phone, initially the only word I could understand was the city I was living in. I heard adskdula fliydophumo ghfisllo boofoto Roma fyucoskeuvlo. After I started traveling around the country, I heard oiftprre migolpwa Roma pyrlktopro gooytdome Ancona tfyhruidna lgydtmopto Calgari — A-HA!!! ITALIAN CITY NAMES! They were using Italian cities to confirm spellings! (The rest of the world is using Alfa and Bravo but the Italians insist you learn Italian geography. They kill me. But that’s be another blogpost.) Figuring that out made me feel very gdoutyremne (smart).
But it’s the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet that is most widely used and you’ve undoubtedly heard it. For example during the Vietnam War, VC referred to the Viet Cong — or Victor Charlie and soon enough, “Charlie” became the moniker for these guerrilla fighters. “Roger” in the sense of “OK” came from an earlier version of the spelling alphabet meaning “received”. (The standard has since changed to Romeo to signify the letter “R”.) Continue reading