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Saturday, May 14, 2005

On using the International Phonetic Alphabet in everyday life

I learned the International Phonetic Alphabet. You know, the Alpha, Bravo, Charlie recitative that you’ve heard on JAG or in war movies. It seemed like a good thing to know. It also seemed like a good idea to practice it by using it in everyday situations.

When the Starbuck’s employee wanted to write my name on my coffee cup, but couldn’t understand me over the general din of people and street noise.
“Edward…Echo Delta Whiskey Alpha Romeo Delta”
At that moment, he wore the same expression that people get when they drink their iced lattes too fast and suffer from brain freeze. He ended up whispering something to the woman making the coffee and just drew a diagonal line across the side of my cup with his grease pencil. I’m still not sure what that slash signifies.

I’ve tried using it on my cell phone when the receptionist needed to have me spell out my street address on my way to an appointment. I said,
“6100 Donegal Way”
“Is that spelled with a T or with a B?”
“No, no T or B. its Donegal…with a D…Delta”
“What’s Delta?”
“The first letter D, Delta. Its Delta Oscar November Echo Gulf Alpha Lima...Donegal.”
There was a long silence.
“Sir, maybe we should just complete this when you arrive.”

I could not have imagined that by learning the IPA I would also be mastering the comedic style of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.


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