I’m an Indian and by default that means I have an accent. It’s still English and it’s a lot less accentuated than a lot of the top Indians on twitter doing clubhouse interviews and what not, but it’s still distinctly Indian.

I didn’t think much of it till today when I called the coffee shop to place an order. I then called a book shop to place another order.

Both of them wrote down different things than what I had thought I had communicated.

So what I did was use the alphabet to make up words to say what I wanted which in this case was

“My last name is Gopal.”” “Go ball?” “No..Gopal” “Go where? Sorry I don’t get it” “G-0-P-A-L as in Georgia, Orange, Potato, America, London.”

Turns out the person doesn’t know that Georgia starts with a G which was inconsequential but actually spelt the potato as a B. So I got GOBAL on my card.

Great.

So I pulled up the Phonetic alphabet to memorize this next time so that when I am asked to spell my surname I’ll do it as the following

“G-O-P-A-L as in Golf, Oscar, Papa, Alfa, Lima”

No confusion.

Except how did they come up with this? Who decided that Y should be yankee and Z should be Zulu? Do you also know there’s I for India there? Amazing for Indians.

This is incredibly important when the letters of the English alphabet are very close in terms of the sound they make and more pronounced when you are an Indian (or an Arab who have no p’s just b’s.). In the matter of military communication it could mean certain death if the wrong coordinates were transmitted for example, “Delta” instead of “D” avoids confusion between “DH98” and “BH98” or “TH98” because D, B, T are similar but Delta Bravo Tango aren’t.

This was fascinating to me so I dug a little deeper.

Acrophony is the idea of naming the letters of an alphabetic writing system so that a letter’s name begins with the letter itself. Think in greek, the Alpha Beta Gamma Theta so on are the actual symbols being used. They are represented as αλφα (alpha), βήτα (beta), γάμμα (gamma), δέλτα (delta).

The Phoenician alphabet is said to be the father of all of this. In it the letter A is said to have been derived from the Egyptian hieroglyph representing an OX. And an ox is called Alp.

The second letter of the Phoenician alphabet is called bet. Which means house technically because it looks like a shelter but put them together alp-bet which gives us the alphabet.

The NATO alphabet we have today was built by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which is a subdivision of the UN, after exhaustive tests in 1955. This was 125 years after the Morse code.

The final choice of code words for the letters of the alphabet and for the digits was made after hundreds of thousands of comprehension tests involving 31 nationalities. In these tests Football was initially chosen for F but it was found that foxtrot is superior in extended communication.

In Muslim countries, where alcohol is banned, the original ITU “Washington” or “White” replaces “Whiskey” for “W”. In Pakistan, “Indigo” or “Italy” replaces “India” because of ongoing conflicts with India.

The alphabets have misspelled “Alfa” and “Juliett” but everyone in the movies uses it to avoid confusion in spelling. I couldn’t find out why.

Nato Alphabet

This is Kilo Golf signing off for today.