A: Now I Know My

When airplane pilots and military personnel need to refer to letters of the alphabet, they use the NATO phonetic alphabet. In this system there's a word for each letter, to avoid confusion among letters whose names sound similar (especially over a noisy radio):

  • Alpha
  • Bravo
  • Charlie
  • Delta
  • Echo
  • Foxtrot
  • Golf
  • Hotel
  • India
  • Juliet
  • Kilo
  • Lima
  • Mike
  • November
  • Oscar
  • Papa
  • Quebec
  • Romeo
  • Sierra
  • Tango
  • Uniform
  • Victor
  • Whiskey
  • Xray
  • Yankee
  • Zulu

(Thanks to PJ Groeneveldt for refreshing my memory on these.) Some organizations that use the above phonetic alphabet use slightly different spelling on some items; for details, see the amazingly exhaustive multilingual phonetic alphabets list on the Web. Note that there are also special words for certain numerical digits: specifically, 3 is "tree," 4 is "fower," 5 is "fife," and 9 is "niner." Note also that the WWII naval radio phonetic alphabet that starts out "Able, Baker, Charlie" precedes (and is superseded by) the NATO alphabet above.

In recognition of the start of a new six-month cycle of columns, here are some other alphabetic amusements.

There's a parlor game in which players take turns adding words to a list, with each word starting with the next letter of the alphabet in sequence; each player in turn has to recite the whole list so far before adding a new one. One person might start, "I went on a trip, and I took an abacus." The next could add, "I went on a trip, and I took an abacus and a bowling ball." And so on. You can make it a little harder by doing themed vacations, with all words required to be in a certain category, such as living things: "I went on a trip and I took along an aardvark, some bacteria, and a camel."

Jim Moskowitz, Chaos Golubitsky, Kim Gallup, and Amy Swift recently played "I went on a guilt trip, and I took..." Here's what they took:

  • my Anxiety
  • Bad feelings
  • a Crying jag
  • Despair
  • Existential angst
  • Failure
  • a Guilt complex
  • my Humility
  • my Insanity
  • my Jealousy
  • a Killjoy
  • my Loathing
  • Melancholy
  • Narcissism
  • my Oppression
  • Persecution
  • my Quarrelsome nature
  • my Repression
  • my Sadomasochism
  • Tantrums
  • Unrest
  • my Vindictiveness
  • Wallowing
  • my Ex
  • Youthful indiscretions
  • and the Zeitgeist.

(I changed one of the items that was something of an in-joke.)

Jim was also one of the creators, along with Bhadrika Love and David Van Stone, of a new version of the old alphabet song, to the same tune as the original:

A, B, I, G, R, X, Q
M, Z, L, V, K-C-W [emphasis on last syllable—double-you]
T, Y, F
H, U, E
N, S, P
O, J, D
Now I know my A-B-I's;
Next time you won't be surprised!

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