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Q signals, HI HI, etc., on voice modes.....why?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by N2EY, Aug 8, 2018.

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  1. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I hear this all too often - and it's not a new thing. People saying "HI HI" rather than laughing, using Q signals all over the place on voice, repeating back the Field Day exchange ("Roger roger your three alfa, three alfa EPA, please copy my one bravo Nebraska, one bravo Nebraska, Cue Ess Ell?")

    (It has been established that "HI HI" for laughing goes back to the days of the wire telegraph, as do many other abbreviations, such as "ES" for "AND")

    Why do folks do such, when words would be better? Sure, sometimes a Q signal is shorter on voice, or has a clearer meaning, but usually that's not the case.

    My guess is that, decades ago, there were 'phone ops who wanted to give the impression that they were super-duper CW ops who just happened to spend some time on 'phone, and that their use of Q signals and HI HI was so engrained that they did it unconsciously. And then others picked up on it.

    The "repeat back the Field Day exchange" thing? I have no idea where it came from. I always thought that when somebody said "roger", it meant "I copied everything you said". After all, it's not as if a Field Day exchange is a 19 order or a steering command on an aircraft carrier.

    QSL? I'll leave that to others.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    KD5FJE, N2SR, WA7PRC and 2 others like this.
  2. W0VRA

    W0VRA Ham Member QRZ Page

    "Acknowledgement" is a very long word with more syllables than QSL. So, like you wrote:

  3. AG1W

    AG1W Ham Member QRZ Page

    Carry that over to 73 and 88 which are holdovers from wire telegraphy days, the only two that survived, not ‘ phone ‘
  4. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    But "roger" is shorter!

    Note the question mark at the end of "QSL?". People will end a transmission with "QSL?" as if to say "did you get that?" And I want to reply: "Why do you ask?"
    WA7PRC likes this.
  5. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page


    (note the author of the post)

    In 1859, Western Union standardized on the "92 code" in which the numbers from 1 to 92 were assigned meanings. It was in this list that 73 got its present meaning. The 92 code was used in ways similar to the Q codes we use today.

    Later, more numbers were added. Here's a partial list:

    1 Wait a moment
    2 Important Business
    3 What time is it?
    4 Where shall I go ahead?
    5 Have you business for me?
    6 I am ready
    7 Are you ready?
    8 Close your key; circuit is busy
    9 Close your key for priority business (Wire chief, dispatcher, etc)
    10 Keep this circuit closed
    12 Do you understand?
    13 I understand
    14 What is the weather?
    15 For you and other to copy
    17 Lightning here
    18 What is the trouble?
    19 Form 19 train order
    21 Stop for a meal
    22 Wire test
    23 All copy
    24 Repeat this back
    25 Busy on another wire
    26 Put on ground wire
    27 Priority, very important
    28 Do you get my writing?
    29 Private, deliver in sealed envelope
    30 No more (end)
    31 Form 31 train order
    32 I understand that I am to ...
    33 Car report (Also, answer is paid for)
    34 Message for all officers
    35 You may use my signal to answer this
    37 Diversion (Also, inform all interested)
    39 Important, with priority on thru wire (Also, sleep-car report)
    44 Answer promptly by wire
    73 Best regards
    88 Love and kisses
    91 Superintendent's signal
    92 Deliver promptly
    93 Vice President and General Manager's signals
    95 President's signal
    134 Who is at the key?

    "19" and "31" refer to train orders of two different types (absolute and permissive). They were so well known that the terms "19 order" and "31 order" were still in railroad use in the 1970s, after the telegraph was pretty much gone from railroad operations.

    The Morse code used in US wire telegraphy was the "American" Morse code, which shares some codes with the "Continental" code we still use today. (The continent referred to in the name is Europe, and it became the standard code for radio work early in the 20th century).

    The abbreviation "es" for "and" derives from the American Morse character "&" which was dit dididit.

    The prosign "SK" with the letters run together derives from the American Morse "30", which was didididahdit daaaaaaaah (extra long dah is zero in that code).

    There are some urban legends about Winchester rifles and such, but they do not stand up to historical fact.
    WA7PRC likes this.
  6. WF4W

    WF4W Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    they are both colloquialisms. It's like using "ya know?" in a sentence or "Right?" at the end of a sentence (i.e. You're going to the mall tonight, right? or "It's, like, ya know, over by the interstate 270")

    no harm despite being annoying.
    AF6TC likes this.
  7. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    No harm? We're supposed to be skilled operators.....

    I know people who do talk that way in person. They don't have brain injuries or similar, it's just a habit and they don't even notice it. They put in various extra words, umms and ahhs and such. Like this:

    "So, I was, um, going to the mall, ah, the mall, and basically what I did was to, umm, to spend, umm, more time, ahhh, looking for a parking space, umm, than I did in the, umm, stores. Right?"

    Could it be this is an attempt to avoid being interrupted? That the extra words and non-words are a way of saying "I'm still talking!"?

    I know that I (and many others) were trained from a very early age NOT to interrupt someone who is talking except in a dire "the house is on fire!" emergency. So...could it be that others learned to fill gaps in their speech?

    Could it be that some folks talk faster than they think so that the umms and ahhs allow the brain to catch up to the mouth?

    I've even run into people who almost never complete a sentence (!). Their speech consists of various phrases and clauses and such, and jumps around enough to make your head spin.

    Again - these aren't people with disabilities, injuries, etc.

    (There's an old QST article called "The By Golly Filter")....
  8. W0VRA

    W0VRA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Oh, sorry, I thought you meant in the sense of QSL cards, not in an exchange on the radio.
  9. K3KIC

    K3KIC Ham Member QRZ Page

    My favorites are when people use locations as replacements for the standard phonetic alphabet. As in "this is Kansas 2 Ohio Florida Mexico, names Tex from Oklahoma, QSL?".
    K9ASE and WZ7U like this.
  10. W3MMM

    W3MMM Ham Member QRZ Page


    I'm going to disagree with you.

    The fundamental purpose of communication, and the language used to accomplish it, is to transfer knowledge from one person to another.

    It is a critical feature of language that it be able to adapt and evolve in order to accomplish the fundamental purpose.

    The net of these two things is that ultimately, the criteria we use to judge a communication, and therefore the underlying language, successful - is simply "did the knowledge pass successfully - was the language necessary and sufficient to convey the knowledge?"

    And thus language is relative. It should adapt and change to meet circumstances.

    This explains why we have different languages, why we have different dialects and why those dialects can generally be mapped geographically, why languages change over time, and why specialized languages quickly evolve among specialized populations.

    We're in the latter group. A specialized language has evolved to meet our needs. Its origin in Morse code is irrelevant, what matters is that it serves to successfully convey meaning.

    Every language has rules, and rules should be taught. The rules of a language help ensure that everyone is on the same page and thus knowledge is successfully transferred...BUT...those rules can (and do) change. As do the words, meanings and implications. In the very long term, NOTHING is locked in stone, and the only "right" is that usage which accomplishes the fundamental purpose.

    QSL, 73, QTH - those are all pretty universally understood in our specialization. They are necessary and sufficient to the message intent. They are our language.
    WB0MPB, KD2NOM, KK4EGZ and 16 others like this.
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