Language used by wireless operators


May 1, 2010
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I have a question regarding Morse code, not sure if this is the right place.....
When an English ship is in contact with a German, Italian, French, Japanese, or some other non-English speaking vessel, How do they communicate with one another via Morse??? same with the Morse lamp. Surely not everyone speaks English, and the North Atlantic was filled with liners of many nationalities. Been wondering this.
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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They used a series of shorthand, for instance "DDD" meant "shut up". Marconi/DeForest/Telefunken operators did write up their wireless logs in their own native language (eg the Frankfurt, written in almost illegible German), but for words that weren't covered by this code, they had to spell out words letter by letter.
 
May 3, 2005
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In reference to the "short hand" there were also "conventional codes" such as "CQ", which meant it was a general call to all stations. If it had a "D" following such as "CQD" it meant it was a distress call. (Later "SOS" was adopted.)

The letters "CQ" and "SOS" did not stand for any words...not "Come Quickly" or "Save Our Ship"...which appears (erroneously) from time to time. "SOS" was adopted since it was easy to send and easily recognized....Three Dots, Three Dashes, Three Dots. ... --- ... (Dididit Dahdahdah Dididit.)

There were also "Q Signals" : For examples "QTH" meant "My location is"; "QSL" meant" I acknowledge receipt of your transmission". etc.

I think Cottam may have replied "QSL UR CQD" (or was it SOS ?) Which meant "I acknowledge receipt of your distress call."

"OM" meant "Old Man"....A general term to which "wireless operators" referred to each other. Didn't necessarily refer to their ages...Phillips, Bride, Cottam, Evans et.al. were in their early twentie's. ;-)

Incidentally, the universal language for Air Traffic Controllers worldwide is English.

BTW...And I have a question. I'm working on sort of a "Titanic Fiction" type story. Would it have been possible for the Titanic's "CQD/SOS" transmissions to have been heard in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on the evening and night of 14-15 April, 1912 ? Of course, in fiction, you can make anything happen. :)
 

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