Deltas 802

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Mon Apr 26 17:36:40 UTC 2010

Do you really mean that it is an /s/? Isn't it rather a /z/? In either case, though, the use of a "normal" consonant rather than a glottal stop is not surprising, especially since it is close to (probably identical to) the full possessive form ("Delta's flight #1") rather than the attributive noun form ("Delta flight #1") which is, after all, identical in meaning but perhaps a bit harder to parse aurally.
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-----Original Message-----
From: Herb Stahlke <hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM>
Date:         Mon, 26 Apr 2010 10:25:06
Subject:      [ADS-L] Deltas 802

Yesterday I received the following query from Ask-a-Linguist:

"I'm an airline pilot. I frequently hear other pilots add an ''s'' to
their airline call sign if their airline ends in an ''a.'' For
example, a pilot will say ''Cleared for takeoff, Deltas 802'' instead
of ''Cleared for takeoff, Delta 802.'' The same is true with my
company, Mesaba. Some say ''Mesabas'' instead of ''Mesaba.'' I think
the sentence flows better with adding the ''s,'' but I can't find any
linguistic reason why people do it. Answer?"

I suggested that the -s might be a genitive bu-t then it should occur
with any airline name.  Perhaps the -s is an alternative to the
elliptical noun phrase "Delta (flight) 802, but, once again, that does
not explain why it occurs only with airline names ending in <a>.  I
asked him if he knew of airlines ending in <y> or <o> and whether he'd
heard the -s with them as well.  I haven't heard back from him yet.

I'd be interested in other interpretations of "Deltas 802."


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