Sunday, June 7, 2015

Aid And Assist

Tonight after dinner I was working a crossword puzzle.  One of the Across clues was "Mayday!"  My first thought was that the answer was SOS, but the word I was looking for had four letters.  It only took a couple seconds for me to figure out the answer was HELP.

While I wrote in the answer I realized I had no idea where the word mayday had came from, and decided to do some research.  Wikipedia provided the answer:
The word Mayday originated in London in 1923. Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer, was asked to come up with an easily-understood word that would indicate distress in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon Airport and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the word Mayday (from the French "m’aidez" which translates to: help me!). Before the voice call "Mayday", SOS was the Morse code equivalent of the Mayday call.
Got it.  But then I wondered where SOS had come from, so I turned to Wikipedia again.
The SOS distress signal was first introduced in Germany in 1905. It was specified as a continuous Morse code sequence of three-dits/three-dahs/three-dits (· · · – – – · · · ). There was no mention of any alphabetic equivalents. However, since in International Morse Code, three dits comprise the letter S, and three dahs the letter O, it soon became common to refer to the distress signal as "SOS". It does not actually stand for anything, and is not an abbreviation.
Now I know.

Five years ago today: Easily Entertained


  1. I had no idea! This is so interesting. I'll have to ask Art if he knows. :- )