CW "Language"

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by K1IGS, Sep 29, 2018.

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  1. K1IGS

    K1IGS Ham Member QRZ Page

    So, I'm plugging along learning CW - listening a lot on 20 and 40 meters. CW seems to have its own "language" though - a bit like people texting or back in the AOL chatroom days.

    Things like..

    5NN (instead of 599)

    Is there a good crash course on CW "language" somewhere? Having that context would make copying easier I think.
  2. N5CM

    N5CM Ham Member QRZ Page

    K1IGS likes this.
  3. K7MEM

    K7MEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    KA5GEX provided a good link.

    IMHO, what your referring to is more of a "lingo" than a "language". CW operators take every opportunity to shorten their messages. This gets their message across in the shortest time possible and with the least effort. They don't just make them up as they go, there are many common abbreviations and Q-Signals. With Q-Signals you can transmit an entire thought with just a few letters. For example, if you send "QRS?", you are asking the other station if they want you to send slower. Without the question mark, you are asking the other station to send slower.
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think you learn a lot by listening, and even more by making contacts.

    Most experienced CW ops almost never use punctuation marks, and "DE" for "this is" or "from" has been used since the earliest days. Anyone who sends stuff like periods is either a new op or someone using a keyboard to send.:p

    No need to send stuff like QTH HERE IS, when "QTH" all by itself means "my location is..." or similar, so any other words are just a waste of time. NAME HERE IS also wastes time since if you give your name, it's obviously your name, and you're obviously there. I find over the decades more and more CW operators don't even use the term "name," just "OP" for "operator;" so it would be OP STEVE which is a whole lot shorter than NAME HERE IS STEVE and it means the same thing.

    "N" for "9" is very common. There are cuts for lots of numbers: "A" is "1," "E" is "5," etc. but "N" is by far the most popular.

    Common to leave letters out and use abbreviations, too. When you hear them, you'll know what they mean.

    Have fun!
    WB5YUZ likes this.
  5. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page


    I (and others) leave vowels out of common words a lot; ABT for "about," HR for " here, etc. This is commonly done in texting also and will quickly become second nature once you start having QSOs.

    This practice dates back to the early days of radio, and I am frequently amused at how much texting abbreviations resemble common CW ones that were used by people born in the 19th century.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
  6. K1IGS

    K1IGS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks folks. I've been "decoding" cw on fldigi for a bit - definitely different lingo. Having some context helps me listen. I'll be ready to call CQ pretty soon - still have to nail down some of the longer letters.

    Practicing "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" in my radio's practice mode.
  7. NG9F

    NG9F Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

  8. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    I usually even avoid "HR" most of the time. Like "rig hr is..." Where else would it be? Just "rig TS990 to 3L at 50 ft" is plenty. No reason for "HR."

    Since I like CW "rag chews," where the meat of the conversation is other stuff besides RST-RIG-WX etc. I try to get that stuff over with quickly and get into actual conversation. To do that, I always ask questions. UR NR BIG LAKE PER MAP DO U FISH THR? ... I C UR NR MTNS DO U SKI? stuff like that. It gets the other op stimulated to answer, assuming they know enough English to do so. (Some don't.)
  9. K1IGS

    K1IGS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Interesting. Does 3L = 3 element Yagi?
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    3L = 3 "elements," whatever they are. Doesn't have to be a yagi.

    RIG 100W ES EFHW.



    Whatever it is. It's really not very important anyway. If the other op doesn't mention it, I usually ask "HW LNG HAMMING?" or something like that to get a feel for if he's a newcomer or an old-timer, or whatever; that can steer the conversation that follows.

    I usually ask "ALWYS LVD THR OR FM OTHER AREA?" or some similar question to determine if he's a lifelong resident of wherever he is or relocated. That can also stimulate more interesting conversation.

    I ask about "RETRD OR WKG?" to see if the other op is retired or employed, which usually leads to "what do you do?" and can lead to interesting discussions.

    I've only worked for two "big" companies, AT&T and HP, and it's not uncommon to bump into another ex-AT&T'er or HP'er and then we have some common ground to talk about until the band fades out! But some have really interesting jobs, like the KH6 who's always on the air on CW and has a bakery in Honolulu so we talk about cake and donuts and whatever.

    When working DX, I always try to find out if they've visited the States, and if so, where; then we chat about that! I've found some JA's who know Los Angeles so well, they actually know restaurants I've never been to, and I've lived here more than 30 years! So I ask for more details.

    CW is great for ragchewing.
    KM6VOV and NG9F like this.

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