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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not the 1st of MAYDAY

I sat for my Marine Radio Operator's License today! And it was all a lot of - well, French, actually!

Did you know that the distress call MAYDAY (spoken three times) is from the French pronunciation for "m'aider", which means "help me" ? And an urgent signal (also spoken three times) is PAN which is French for "panne", which means "mishap" or "accident." A signal concerning general safety is preceded by the call SAY-CURE-E-TAY which corresponds to the French pronunciation for "sécurité", which means "safety." And to impose silence on other radio traffic, the call SEELONCE is used which corresponds to the French pronounciation for "silence."

Despite Trafalgar, the French seem to have well and truly put their oars in when it comes to marine safety!

N.B. The Mayday call-sign was originated in 1923 by a Frederick Stanley Mockford who was a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. Mockford was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress and would easily be understood by all pilots and ground staff in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the word "Mayday" from the French m’aider. "Venez m'aider" means "(you) come help me."