Phonetically correct sports

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 15 21:51:06 UTC 2007

In practice, you can use almost any word as part of such an alphabet,
as long as no one involved cares.

When i was a "voice-intercept operator" in the 78th US Army Security
Agency Special Operations Unit in Berlin, we were supposed to speak
our initials at the end of any interception. A colleague, John
Kershaw, signed off as "Jackie Kennedy." I.e.:

This is tape number delta tango dash zero three nine four.

The classification of this tape is "confidential." This tape is
classified "confidential."

Time up: 0030 hours zulu. Time down: 0730 hours zulu.

This is operator J[ackie] K[ennedy] (= J[ohn] K[ershaw]).

Copies of the tapes were sent to the US ASA Processing Co., to the
DIA, the NSA, and the CIA. No one in this chain gave a damn,
apparently, since Kershaw never got into any trouble. Pretty soon, we
were all goofing a la Kershaw.

"Tango" in "delta tango" represented "T" for Tempelhof Air Force Base,
the location of our particular intercept unit. The "'delta"? Your
guess is as good as mine. I had no need to know.


On 3/15/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Phonetically correct sports
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 9:43 AM -0500 3/15/07, Jim Parish wrote:
> >Michael Quinion wrote:
> >>  A subscriber e-mailed me as follows: "I was recently with some friends at
> >>  a trivia evening. One question was 'What is the only correct phonetically
> >>  spelled sport?' It turned out to be 'Golf'". Your follow-up question:
> >>  explain what's wrong phonetically with "rugby" and "cricket".
> >
> >Completely off-the-wall suggestion: could it be that "Golf" is one of the
> >words in the other International Phonetic Alphabet - the one that begins
> >(I think) "Able, Baker, Charlie"?
> >
> >Jim Parish
> >
> Good catch, Jim.  There are a couple of different alphabets, and
> according to one post on the web, the relevant one isn't "Able,
> Baker" (which has George for the G) but
> Alpha, bravo, Charlie, delta, echo, foxtrot, golf, hotel, India,
> Juliet, kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, papa, Quebec, Romeo,
> Sierra, tango, uniform, Victor, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu.
> for the "international phonetic (Roman) alphabet"
> Sure enough, "golf" is the only game (I know of) on this list.
> LH
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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