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What exactly is the " Correct " phonetic alphabet??

Discussion in 'Discussions, Opinions & Editorials' started by VK3UCL, Dec 31, 2009.

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  1. VK3UCL

    VK3UCL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I haven't been in ham radio all that many years but i would like to know if there has been a " NEW " phonetic alphabet introduced / legislated to ham radio.

    When i passed my exams i know what i was tested on, K = Kilo but i keep hearing KILLOWAT , A= Alpha not AMERICA & R = Romeo not RADIO and the thing i find the most amazing because i use, what i consider the correct terms, there are alot of op's out there that cannot understand my callsign unless it is in " Newspeak ".

    George Orwell would be pleased that 1984 actually happened, even if it was a few years later than anticipated!

    Regards Ric.
  2. KD5PME

    KD5PME Ham Member QRZ Page

  3. W5HTW

    W5HTW Ham Member QRZ Page

    There is only one correct international alphabet and that is the ICAO one. That is the one used by world wide aviation, and in that context, it is understood everywhere.

    But it depends. There is a 'correct' alphabet for police work and that is the "Adam, Boy, Charles, David...." one. They mostly do not like the ICAO version.

    MARS uses the standard ICAO and nothing but, I believe. They used to.

    I know a lot of people will use, for example, "Germany" for "G." But "Germany" is an English word, not the French one, or the German one, or the Japanese one or the Mexican one, for that European nation.

    In amateur radio, we are not so strict as the airlines, military, and others stuck with the ICAO alphabet. We have a lot more flexibility. At one time, probably 95 percent of the hams on the air used the standard military phonetics.

    But ham radio has changed. If "Kilo" makes "K" clear, good. If "Kansas" does, that's fine, too. I am no longer a stickler for 'correct' phonetics.

    However, I do hate the 'cute' ones. Like for my call, Whazup Five Hardly Talking Wildly. Off the air, I have had many 'cutesy' phonetics for call signs I have held over the years, but I refused to use them on the air, even if they were not R-rated! Still, there is nothing illegal about them. If that's your thing, and if people understand you, then I guess it's OK. But I won't use them on your call!

    We are NOT professionals. So we don't have to do it the professional way, and I'm glad. At one time, most hams in the USA were ex-military, so they used what they knew. Ham learning publications also taught (and still do) the 'standard' international phonetics. Because back then we were considered that 'pool of radio operators and technicians' who could be drafted into the military, given a radio and a rifle and plopped into the field with minimal, we were encouraged to follow mostly military procedures, even in our hobby. Those days are long gone.

    It has indeed become common to use "kilowatt" (which is one word) for "K." I don't think it is confusing at all, as I think almost any amateur you said it to would know you did not mean Kilo Watt was the suffix. If so, heck, explain it.

    Have fun. Use what works, but be sure it works.

    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Kilowatt is one word starting with "K" and gets through better because there are more bits of information exchanged. That's why people use it, especially hams who are used to hearing the word "kilowatt" anyway.

    I find the ICAO phonetic alphabet positively sucks for international DX work, and I've tried everything.

    "Golf" never gets through. Neither does "Hotel," but Honolulu does. "Juliet" is only recognized by 30% of the world, but "Japan" is recognized by 90%. "Oscar" is hardly ever understood, but "Ocean" is. "Papa" is not well understood (too short, and again an English word) but "Panama" gets right through. Etc.

    Aviators are dealing with strong signals. Hams are dealing with weak signals and a lot of QRM. You use what works.

  5. KA4DPO

    KA4DPO Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The proper (ICAO) phonetics for my call sign are: Kilo Alpha Four Delta Papa Oscar but my cutsie one is: Keep All Four Doors Propped Open.

    I find I work a lot more of that there skip with my cutsie one..:D:D
  6. VK6ZGO

    VK6ZGO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ric,you'll find that a lot of people who advocate the "Official" phonetics

    learnt how to use them in the Military,or similar,where the training also

    includes standard pronunciation .

    Tips on pronunciation are rarely included in lists of "correct" phonetics printed

    in Amateur radio publications.

    If an Australian pronounces the phonetic words as they would in normal

    conversation,for instance; "alpha" (alfuhh),& "oscar" (osscuh),the other

    station may confuse the two,due to the the 'uhh" sound at the end.

    Amateurs in other countries have similar problems,so from time to time may

    substitute alternative phonetics which appear to work better in difficult


    This has been chewed over many a time on,without anyone

    convincing anyone else!:D

    73 VK6ZGO
  7. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    Phonetics? On CW we don't need no stinkin' phonetics! :D
  8. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    This topic comes up here on on a very regular basis. There are those who INSIST that the ICAO phonetics MUST be used even though most of those persons don't work much DX or contests.

    For many years the ICAO phonetics were different from those used by the United States military and those were different from those used by police departments in the United States. Then, the ARRL even had their own set of phonetics which they "pushed" for decades but virtually no one ever used those phonetics.

    Using ICAO phonetics my call is Kilo Nine Sierra Tango Hotel and when working stateside (non contest) and on VHF/UHF I do use those phonetics. However, when working DX and when working contests I can assure you that those particular phonetics will not make the grade at least 99 times out of 100. Under those circumstances I generally use Kilowatt Nine Spain Texas Honolulu and 99.9 percent of the time I do not have to repeat my call. But, if I use ICAO phonetics I often have to repeat my call several times and then the DX station often doesn't get it correct until I resort to geographical names.

    There are those who "point out" that Germany is called Deutschland in Germany and Spain is called Hispania, and so forth. However, I have yet to run into someone from Germany who did not recognize "Germany" for the letter "G", someone from Spain who did not recognize "Spain" for the letter "S", and so forth.

    I have been licensed for over 50 years and using geographical names has worked for the entire time.

    Glen, K9STH
  9. KC0NBW

    KC0NBW Ham Member QRZ Page

    i use kilo charlie zero november bravo whiskey for calling and either "never been wrong", or "no brain waves" for humor and to get my call to register in their memory!:cool:
  10. KC0NBW

    KC0NBW Ham Member QRZ Page



    to put them down in order like this, i have to think about them.

    give me a name or such and i can rattle them off without thinking .
  11. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Those can work pretty well if you deal with Americans.

    Try them with stations from Malawi and let me know how it works out.;)
  12. KD0EAH

    KD0EAH Ham Member QRZ Page

    quebec (pronounced Key-beck)

    At least that is how we used them in the Army.

    Here's another version.
    Law Enforcement
  13. K2QI

    K2QI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nice first post UCL... you're definitely gonna love this crowd.
  14. VK3UCL

    VK3UCL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Interesting thoughts

    I think that there is a reason why organisations have rules for cetain things so we don't just have a " use what feels right " system, i think that is why each country has a band plan etc and will test a prospective operators knowledge of such.

    So how then does an operator know exactly what alphabet another operator has decided " what works for him " and will be using, guess we just have to listen and learn each day ???

    I apologise for not reading the previous thread re - phonetic alphabet too.
  15. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I believe it´s extremely important to use only the official phonetic alphabet. Therefore, I use the phonetic alphabet of the Mexican National Railroad.

    A de Aguascalientes
    B de Barroterán
    C de Colima
    D de Durango
    E de Ébano
    F de Ferronales
    G de Guadalajara
    H de Hidalgo
    I de Irapuato
    J de Jalisco
    K de Kilómetro
    L de Lagos
    M de México
    N de Nochistongo
    O de Oaxaca
    P de Pachuca
    Q de Querétaro
    R de Rodríguez
    S de Salamanca
    T de Tamaulipas
    U de Uruapan
    V de Veracruz
    W de Washington
    X de Xochimilco
    Y de Yurécuaro
    Z de Zacatecasético_del_ferrocarril
  16. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    As good as any other, and I think the Spanish speaking community in the world is probably larger than the English speaking one,

    So, good choice.
  17. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    But I bet Oaxaca and Xochimilco wouldn´t be very comprehensible to anyone outside of Mexico. But it´s official!

    In case anyone didn´t catch it, I wasn´t being serious. The whole point of a phonetic alphabet is so that it can be understood by anyone, whether or not that person knows what the correct phonetic happens to be.

    At some point after I got started, the ´correct´ alphabet changed. At one time, my call was India Sierra, and at another point, it was Italy Sugar. Frankly, I never remember for sure which one is the current version, and I use them more or less interchangably. If one doesn´t work, I switch to another one. Depending on who I´m working, I might use a different one. For example, in Spanish,´Italia Santiago´ seems to work the best, although I really don´t know whether or not it is ´correct´.

    This question does seem to come up frequently, although it was a non issue in the past. I suspect the reason is that there is a strong tendency for people wanting to show that they know ´the code´. Now that ´the code´isn´t required, people have found another one!
  18. WU8Y

    WU8Y Ham Member QRZ Page

    Exactly. I don't see any fights on teh Zed over which is the proper CW code, or the correct interpretation of the five bits in RTTY, or etc. It's only with ICAO phonetics that this happens, and I don't know why.

    I wonder if international aviation forums have the same amount of bad-mouthing and poo-poohing of the phonetics as we hear here?

    Kilowatt is written as KW. Period, end of story. Don't say "kilowatt" on the air to me unless you mean KW.
  19. KC0NBW

    KC0NBW Ham Member QRZ Page

    these phonetics are what i learned and have become so ingrained that i don't have to think about them.

    malawi is not exactly a daily contact for me, if and when i have a qso there i will have to struggle along with the phonetics i know and hope for the best !:D
  20. N9XR

    N9XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I used to think the same thing, but I found the origins of the term "Germany".

    "Germania" was the name of the Roman territory that we now know as "Deutschland". Variants of the term "Germany" are used in Deutschland today. So it is not really an "English word" as it has its roots in the Roman history. When the US was formed until 1806, that territory was Germania.

    The term is not foreign to those of Deutschland.

    As for the phonetics, I used to prefer ICAO, but when I had the callsign WB5L, even on FD contacts, I did poorly with "Lima". When I used "London", the contest went much more smoothly.

    I guess if you like what don't work, use the worst stuff you can use.
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