Why do we use ‘SOS’ as a call for help?


It really doesn't stand for anything, and that's the beauty of it

(WKBN) – You’re in trouble, you send out an SOS and, yes, Morse Code is still out there. But what does SOS stand for?

ABBA sang about it and the letters SOS have been used as a code for emergencies since 1905.

It really doesn’t stand for anything, though, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s not even an acronym, like NASA or LASER.

The Germans first thought of it — a simple Morse Code sequence designed to stand out.

Translated to Morse Code, SOS looks like this:
“. . . – – – . . .”

Three dots, three dashes, three dots.

It appeared at a time before radio transmissions when Morse was a way for ships at sea to talk to each other.

Different nations used different codes. Britain, for example, favored CQD. As the Titanic sunk into the ocean in April 1912, it broadcasted a mix of CQD and SOS.

The confusion from that led to one standard call for help.

CQD, by the way, meant, “We need help.” CQ was just a general call — “Is anyone out there?” And the “D” meant, “We’re in distress.”

The sequence of triplet dots and dashes soon became the international favorite. You can recognize it easily.

Not only is SOS a palindrome — a word that reads the same backward and forward — it’s also an ambigram — a word that looks identical whether read upside-down or right-side-up.

Carve it into sand or snow, and it still looks like SOS no matter which way the rescue chopper approaches.

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