Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Mayday! M'aidez!


I was reminded last night that the distress call Mayday is merely an Englished spelling of the French m'aidez, which means Help me.

While I'm here, I should, perhaps, point out that SOS doesn't stand for anything. It's simply very easy to transmit in Morse Code. When SOS was thought up, there was an alternative suggestion that the signal should be CQD, standing for Come Quickly, Distress, but it was too hard to transmit.

9 comments:

  1. Ah, any Red Dwarf fan knows that:
    Rimmer: Mayday, Mayday! I wonder why they call it "Mayday" ? It's only a bank holiday. Why not "Shrove Tuesday", or "Ascension Sunday" ? Ascension Sunday, Ascension Sunday! 2nd Wednesday after Pentecost, 2nd Wednesday after Pentecost!
    *childish giggle*

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  2. The French have obviously had more trouble at sea. The Internationally accepted "Mayday" signal (i.e.I'm sinking) is backed up by 2 more types of signal : "PAN-PAN" (i.e. I've broken down near the rocks) and by "Sécurité" (i.e. I need to tell people that the navigation lights near the rocks have broken down)

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  3. I always thought SOS stood for "Save Our Souls"!

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    1. Popular myth. But it's a folk etymology or a back-formation or something. It's no coincidence that it's the two easiest letters to remember. And you don't actually repeat 'SOS SOS...', it's 'SOSOSOSO...' so it couldn't really stand for that.

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  4. There are so many Englishisms flooding in here in France. (They like our -ing words a lot: parking, meeting, shampooing - and even invent of their own: relooking, footing.) I called my notes on the deluge M'aider Mayday: http://maidermayday.blogspot.fr/

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  5. But my French teacher told us the French for 'help me' is never 'm'aider', it is 'au secours'.

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    1. M'aidez is more "come to my assistance". It's the calm one. Au secours is what you shout when you're drowning.

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  6. The derivation of Mayday always reminds me of the motto of the French Navy, to whit: "To the water, it's time!" The French for this is, of course, "A l'eau, c'est l'heure" ...

    I jest, of course.

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  7. thanks for sharing..

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