By: Alan Meincke
Read the line above this paragraph one more time. That’s right. My last name is a tough one to spell and say correctly. Thousands of telemarketers have tried and failed. I cannot count how many times I have had to try and spell my last name to someone over the phone. Inevitably, the “m” sounds like an “n” and vice versa. Fortunately, I realized there is an easy way for me to remedy this problem! I memorized the NATO phonetic alphabet.
Due to the advent of radio communications, similar systems were independently developed by the U.S. and Britain after WWI. Battlefield conditions like background noise and static necessitated a clear way to communicate–a life or death matter for soldiers.
Once the alphabet was battle tested, it was adapted for international use (using sounds more easily found in a variety of languages). While the version below is not exactly the same as what NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies use today, the name stuck based on an unclassified version that was publicly released. This system is used today by radio operators around the world (airports, EMS, police, and even the lowly telemarketer).
Interesting side note: radio operators at airports like Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta use “Data,” “Dixie,” or “David” to avoid confusion with Delta Airlines.
Who would have thought radio-calling during war would lead to the ease of my spelling my name out over the phone to verify my identity to a credit card company? No longer will I be tongue-tied by searching for a random word that starts with “m”. Spoken confidently, you can sound like a badass who knows what he’s talking about. Mike-Echo-India-November-Charlie-Kilo-Echo. Naturally, our favorite letter at BBT is Whiskey.
Without further ado, I give you, the NATO Phonetic Alphabet (Morse Code included for no extra charge):
Have you ever had the same problem as me over the phone? Let us know in the comments if you try this out!
Alan lives north of Atlanta with his wife. For the uninitiated, his name is difficult to pronounce.