Whisky Hotel Alpha Tango?

I was watching a new TV series the other night (I’m not going to name it but anyone who knows anything about it will know what I’m talking about), and some of the characters are named after the NATO phonetic alphabet that’s been adopted by many military and civilian organisations around the world. That’s the Alpha Bravo Charlie one, if you weren’t sure.

Quite a few years ago I memorised this alphabet, partially because I worked for a mail carrier, and partially out of my own interest. For some reason I like to be able to spell things using it “Yes, that’s Wendy – Whisky Echo November Delta Yankee” (I am a giant dork).  If, for whatever reason, you need to be able to spell something using the phonetic alphabet, but you can’t remember it, you can use this handy tool.  I’m sure someone can think of some valid use for it.

After a little bit of investigation, I found this page, which is fairly old, but very comprehensive. It contains information about systems used in other languages as well. This wiki is more succinct, and the table is easier to look at. I like how the Royal Navy used Xerxes during WWI, and I giggle to myself when I imagine big burly military men spelling words out using Duff, Nancy, Pup, Pudding, Queenie, Quack, and Willie. I guess words had different connotations back then.

Interestingly, the current system was developed with international speakers in mind, and the words that caused the most confusion in different accents (Coca, Metro, Nectar, Union, and Extra) were replaced by less ambiguous ones (Charlie, Mike, November, Uniform, and X-Ray).

I think the makers of the TV show tweaked things a little bit, though, as Sierra and Echo are better names for characters than, say, Uniform, Kilo and Hotel. I imagine that if the main characters were called Sugar and Easy (as in the 1941-1956 US and RAF phonetic alphabets), it might’ve been quite a different show.

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