Shortcutting… Special Alphabets

14 Aug

In my post on flags the other day, I said, in what at the time was a joke, that I’d ‘save semaphore for another day’. Well, now that the Olympics are over, I’m going to need something else to blog about, so I thought what the hey – today’s that day! Today, class, we’re going to be looking at four different alphabets things: flag semaphore, Morse code, the NATO alphabet, and Braille.

So let’s start with the flags, because that’s what made me think of the whole thing. The first thing worth noting is that you don’t have to use flags for this – you can use anything kind of rod-like, but I think flags are the most glam, so feel free to use up all your leftover Olympics ones trying this out. It was originally used on ships but I think we should bring it back, maybe for when you’re phone runs out… Here’s the alphabet, courtesy of my favourite reliable source, Wikipedia:

  • Rest / Space

  • Numerals

  • Error or Attention

  • A or 1

  • B or 2

  • C or 3

  • D or 4

  • E or 5
    (8x) Error

  • F or 6

  • G or 7

  • H or 8

  • I or 9

  • J or Letters
    Letters / Position Sign

  • K or 0 (zero)
    Invitation to Transmit

  • L

  • M

  • N

  • O

  • P

  • Q

  • R

  • S

  • T

  • U

  • V

  • W

  • X

  • Y

  • Z

(Numbers can be signaled by first signaling “Numerals”. To change back to letters, simply signal “J”.)


Right, next up, it’s dot dot dash time. This one’s great for whenever your secret spy identity’s been blown, and you want to plot your escape with your partner in the next cell. It’s my go-to secret alphabet – Morse code! You can either do it by flashing a light (torch or mobile phone screen perhaps?) or tapping, although it can be a bit tricky to distinguish between dots and dashes. But whatever happens, at least learn S.O.S. – dot dot dot   dash dash dash   dot dot dot – that one might get you out of a few tricky, undercover-operation-gone-wrong situations.

File:International Morse Code.svg

The next one – the NATO alphabet – is pretty easy, it’s really just to help understand letters. It’s most useful when you’re trying to spell something over the phone and just can’t think of anything that starts with ‘k’ except ‘knight’. Et voila:

File:FAA Phonetic and Morse Chart2.svg


Okay, now you probably don’t need this last one, seeing as you’re reading my blog and all, but I’ve always thought it would be super-cool to be able to read Braille – you could be pretending to talk to someone and actually be reading a book! Or you know that age-old problem of whether to read the book or watch the film first? You could do both! At the same time! So here it is:

Braille A1.svg Braille B2.svg Braille C3.svg Braille D4.svg Braille E5.svg Braille F6.svg Braille G7.svg Braille H8.svg Braille I9.svg Braille J0.svg
a/1 b/2 c/3 d/4 e/5 f/6 g/7 h/8 i/9 j/0
Braille K colored.svg Braille L colored.svg Braille M colored.svg Braille N colored.svg Braille O colored.svg Braille P colored.svg Braille Q colored.svg Braille R colored.svg Braille S colored.svg Braille T colored.svg
k l m n o p q r s t
Braille U colored.svg Braille V colored.svg Braille X colored.svg Braille Y colored.svg Braille Z colored.svg Braille W colored.svg
u v x y z w


Right, so there’s your homework for tonight. You will be tested on all four next week. I’m expecting straight As. Good luck.

Keep shortcutting,

Zulu Oscar Echo


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