Phonetic alphabet

Phonetic alphabet

Using the NATO phonetic alphabet to spell out your name or address over the phone is a thrill tantamount to espionage. Plus you can create your own code words…

What we call the phonetic alphabet was established by NATO, and it was a way of avoiding confusion if someone was spelling out letters by radio or phone. There are other spelling alphabets out there. Mookychick is sticking with the NATO phonetic alphabet because it’s easy to use and the whole world knows what it is. Honestly, it’s such a useful little thing to know, it’s nice that a military organisation like NATO actually come through for the rest of us and made our lives noticeably better.

We’ve all been in a situation where we have to spell our surname or postcode over the phone, and people can’t hear clearly if we’ve said “S” or “F”, for instance, or “M” or “N”. What the phonetic alphabet does is substitute those letters for words, because words are easier to make out over a phone line, even if the line is crackling.

Even if you’re not planning on a career in law enforcement or the armed forces or as a worker in a call centre, knowing your phonetic alphabet will be a useful little skill to have for the rest of your life. As an added plus, using it over the phone does make you feel a little like a spy.

If you wish, you don’t have to learn the alphabet itself. You can just invent your own words. Well, not actuallyinvent your own words, because that would be confusing. There’s no point saying “I live at Bearshire Close, let me spell that for you, it’s Pajaristicality Evermeerkatonia Aberashamnikoff…” Nevertheless, when I had a postcode that ended with “BW”, I always ended up spelling it Bertie Wooster (as in the Wodehouse novels) rather than NATO’s classic Bravo Whiskey. Similarly, the first spelling word that comes to my mind for “M” is never Mike but Monkey.

But, as with the rules of grammar, it behooves you to learn the rules first before creatively breaking them.

So here it is – the NATO phonetic alphabet. In 10 minutes of verbal practice and scrawling on a notepad you should know most of them. Keep getting your friends to test you over the next few days, keep using it on the phone – making it up if you can’t remember, then going back to check what the real code word was – and within a couple of weeks you’ll have learned the phonetic alphabet. A skill for life…

Phonetic alphabet

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


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