R is for Robert, or is it Roger … or maybe Romeo?

Posted By on November 7, 2016

ZenithTransOceanicA learning game we played while traveling by car was to spell things out using the NATO phonetic alphabet. Both Katelyn and Taylor did a great job learning it … and I think to this day they remember it. Give it a try if you need a way to pass the time AND practice for spelling tests in a unique way!

Also being a General Class amateur radio operator (K4RDC), I’m generally intrigued when reading the history stories that pertain to radio (was a shortwave listener as a young boy and even built my own!). I thought this Popular Mechanics story about “Roger that” was pretty interesting, as well as learning that “R” was “Robert” before “Roger” and before “Romeo” (current).

“Roger” comes from the phonetic alphabet used by military and aviation personnel during WWII, when the use of two-way radios became a main form of communication and WW2PhoneticAlphabetJustoperators need crystal clear ways to spell things out with no room for misinterpretation. You may be familiar with the current NATO version of the phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie), where the the word for “R” is Romeo, but before that standard was adopted in 1957, the words were a bit different, and the word for “R” was “Roger.”

But the use of “Roger” as a confirmation has roots that go back even further. In the Morse code days, when sending long messages could be arduous, a useful shorthand was to respond with single, meaningful letters. Responding to a message with the letter “R,” for instance, simply let the sender know that their message had been received. When two-way radio came along, the shorthand continued, but with the word “Roger” instead of “R” itself.

Even though Roger has since been replaced with Romeo (and was “Robert” before it was ever Roger), the widespread use of the two-ray radio during the WWII wildly popularized the saying we are still use so casually today. Roger that?



Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.