Sunday Morning Musings: 2017 A to Z Challenge Blog– Z is Zulu

hyacithGood day! As you can see, I have flowers now. While it feels like -1C ( 30F) outside this morning, Thursday it was 31 (80). That’s Canada for you–a land of extremes at times, but the tulips, daffodils and hyacinths as well as the snowdrops are in bloom. Soon, I hope to have consistently warm temperatures, leaves on trees, irises, and lilacs.  I hope wherever you are, Mother nature isn’t being too harsh on you.

2017 BadgeWelcome to the twenty-sixth and final day of this year’s blog challenge. This has been an incredible month, and I hope to be able to continue checking in on the blogs of those I’ve followed as the years continues. I won’t be blogging daily, but Tuesday will continue to be my Tuesday Tales day where I’ll join a small group of other bloggers writing a new novel based on word cues or specific pictures. Wednesday will see me participate in the Midweek Tease with other bloggers who share clips from public works, some spicy, some not. Sunday morning I hope to continue the reflections on the past week in my Sunday Morning Musings. And then, my blog is always open to writers who would like to promote a new book (Only restriction is that is has to be rated PG, not the book but whatever I post LOL) You never know who might drop by. I’m also hoping to be able to put up a few reviews. I’ve posted them to Amazon and Goodreads, but haven’t gotten around to a deeper look at the books.

ZZ is Zulu

Have you ever been asked to spell your name over the phone? How many times have you had to repeat a letter and tried to make the person understand what you are saying? Imagine how dangerous and difficult it is for air traffic controllers or police officers. There exists a way to make communication clearer. It’s called the NATO Phonetic Alphabet,  or the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet is a communication code word system for the alphabet. The words for the 26 letters of the alphabet in order are: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee and Zulu.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) alphabet assigned codewords  to the letters of the alphabet so that important combinations of letters and numbers could be  be pronounced and understood in voice messages by radio or telephone regardless of language barriers or the quality of the communication channel. In other words, no matter what language you may speak, Z is Zulu. 

As I was trying to decide what to write about, I thought of all the Z words I possibly could, and when I decided on this, I got to wondering why that particular word for the letter Z? Why not zoo, zebrazenith, zinnia zither, zigzag, zilch, Zach, Zephrim… I could go on and on. I know it can’t be zero, since that’a a numeric value. So, off I went to learn more about this.

booksAs I researched, I discovered that this system of assigning names to letters goes back quite a way and has been through some changes over the years. From Wikipedia:

After the phonetic alphabet was developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)[2] it was adopted by many other international and national organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), and the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).

It is a subset of the much older International Code of Signals (INTERCO), which originally included visual signals by flags or flashing light, sound signals by whistle, siren, foghorn, or bell, as well as one, two, or three letter codes for many phrases.[3] The same alphabetic code words are used by all agencies, but each agency chooses one of two different sets of numeric code words. NATO uses the regular English numeric words (Zero, One, with some alternative pronunciations), whereas the IMO provides for compound numeric words (Nadazero, Unaone, Bissotwo…). In practice these are used very rarely, as they frequently result in confusion between speakers of different languages.

The first such alphabet code was created in 1927 with changes made until it was adopted like this in 1932. This continued to be the standard for the IMO until 1965 Amsterdam, Baltimore, Casablanca, Denmark, Edison, Florida, Gallipoli, Havana, Italia, Jerusalem, Kilogramme, Liverpool, Madagascar, New York, Oslo, Paris, Quebec, Roma, Santiago, Tripoli, Upsala, Valencia, Washington, Xanthippe, Yokohama, Zurich. Note how much longer and more complex the words were.

During the wars, things were even more complicated until the US adopted the Joint Army (Air Corps)/ Navy (Marines) alphabet for all radio transmissions.

Royal Navy Western Front
RAF radio
Army(Air Corps)/Navy(Marines)
1914–18 (WWI) 1924–42 1943–56 1941–56
Apples Ack Ace Able or
Butter Beer Baker
Duff Don Dog
Edward Easy
Freddy Freddie Fox
George Gee George
Harry How
Ink Item or
Johnnie Jig or
London Love
Monkey Emma Monkey Mike
Nuts Nab or
Orange Oboe
Pudding Pip Peter
or Prep
Queenie Queen
Robert Roger
Sugar Esses Sugar
Tommy Toc Tare
Vinegar Vic Victor
Willie William
Xerxes X-ray
Yellow Yorker Yoke

After the war, with many aircraft and ground personnel from the allied armed forces, “Able Baker”, the name given to it, continued to be used for civil aviation. But many sounds were unique to the English language, and so an alternate was needed. The  “Ana Brazil” alphabet was used in Latin America. But the International Air Transport Association (IATA), recognizing the need for a universal alphabet that had sounds common to English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. On November 1, 1951 for civil aviation  the code words becameAlfa, Bravo, Coca, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Metro, Nectar, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Union, Victor, Whisky, Extra, Yankee, Zulu.

But before long, the authorities found problems with some of these words, too.  Words like  Delta, Nectar, Victor, and Extra, and the unintelligibility of other words during poor receiving conditions were the main problems. After much study, the five words representing the letters C, M, N, U, and X were replaced. So, now I know why the words chosen are what they are.

Sworn to ProtectOne last thing before I leave you for the year. If you haven’t nominated Sworn to Protect, my novel in the Kindle Scout campaign, could you consider doing to? If it wins a contract, you get a free digital copy. And since you can nominate up to three books, there might be something else there you might like. Here’s the link and my thanks in advance.

Thanks to all who followed me this month. may the rest of 2017 bring you health and happiness. As Mr. Spock would say, live long and prosper. See you next year.

Don’t forget to visit the rest of today’s bloggers. A to Z Challenge Blog

35 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Musings: 2017 A to Z Challenge Blog– Z is Zulu

  1. Congratulations on finishing the A to Z Challenge and thanks for visiting/commenting on my blog! I am forever spelling my surname on the phone and some confirmation numbers contain letters, too. I sure wish customer service worldwide would learn the official alphabet designations 🙂 Great meeting you during A to Z. Hope to stop back here during the year, and look forward to your A to Z Reflections post.

  2. I only remember hearing the code words in tv shows and movies and I didn’t really know why they were used but now I do. thanks.

    thanks for your visit, have a lovely day.

  3. I’ve used the NATO alphabet for years, including in the Army in the 1950s. I never knew what preceded it though – couldn’t have used those complex words.
    Congratulations on completing AtoZ Challenge.

  4. Lovely flowers! 🙂 Wow; 31! We only got up to 20 on Thurs. and now it’s 4, with a windchill of -2. Crazy Canadian weather!

    Thanks for the history lesson. As an ‘army brat’, I’m familiar with the NATO alphabet but wasn’t aware of its origins.

    Congratulations on a successful A to Z Challenge! Thanks for your frequent visits to The Den. See you again, soon. Cheers!

  5. A fascinating final topic. Congratulations on the A to Z, and i’m sorry you only publish at this time of year, i was hoping for more.

  6. An alphabet to end the alphabet challenge seems a fitting end. I enjoyed the history lesson as well as your flowers. I am enjoying a Canadian spring that has not seen my flowers bloom yet, but soon if the snow will stay away.

  7. When I think Z for Zulu, I think of Zulu time. My husband is retired Navy and when he was at sea, they observed Zulu time, which was GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)… zero meridian time. If I recall the time difference correctly, right now as I write this, it is 7:20 AM Mountain Daylight Time, and 1:20 PM Zulu Time.

    Congratulations on completing the A to Z Challenge!

    Trudy @ Reel Focus
    Food in Film: Zagnut

  8. I went to a military college so heard the alphabet this way often when things needed to be spelled. I had forgotten a few of them and I just make up whatever pops in my head when I have to spell over the phone. But it is useful since I work at a university and not everyone’s first language is English. Zulu is also a unit of time in the military. Girl Who Reads

  9. Maybe they’ll need to rethink using “Zulu” since it might be considered cultural appropriation or whatever kind of nonsense folks have come up with in this regard. If I were using a universally accepted word I might go with “Zebra”, but maybe there are people who don’t know what a zebra is. Who knows? I don’t normally use letter identifiers anyway.

    Congratulations on completing the Challenge of 2017! And thanks for being a part of it.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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