Spelling alphabetRecently I tried to use the spelling alphabet (Alfa, Bravo, Charlie) when I needed to spell something here in Spain (haven’t completely grasped the Spanish alphabet yet). To my surprise, I found out it is not as universal as I thought.

In fact, there are different countries have their own spelling alphabets, as this site (although old) shows. Spain’s spelling alphabet begins Antonio, Barcelona, Carmen, for example.

The alphabet I was using is known as the NATO phonetic alphabet, or the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet. It’s been adopted by many military and civilian organisations around the world, including the Federal Aviation Administration and International Telecommunication Union, which I suppose is why I assumed people would know it here. It’s also been used for art, and a comment on language.

Looking at the various alphabets, it seems that most are based on names, particularly of people. The names appear specific to each country (Désirè for example), which would not be useful for an international alphabet. I particularly like the older English alphabets, which include gems such as Xantippe (British A), Monkey, Nuts (British Royal Air Force from 1924-1942) and Xerxes (British Royal Navy – 1917).

Do you know a spelling alphabet? What words are used?