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The Joys of Jargon or “Negatory On That!”

(All call signs mentioned in this article have been disguised to protect the tedious.)


Jargon, every hobby, every field has it and we Hams have a load of it!


Jargon evolves hopefully to clarify a message, to remove any ambiguity, to increase the signal to noise ratio of ANY exchange of ideas.  Occasionally jargon devolves into a way to mask your meaning from the general public or sound more important than someone who just spoke common words.


Amateur Radio is all about communication, about inclusion, not exclusion and yet we have all this jargon.


Its origin made a great deal of sense.   Amateur Radio communication first took place using Morse code, the “texting” of its time and just as “texters” use agreed upon abbreviations and codes, CW operators used their version.  This is where the “Q” codes really shined.  Originally intended for commercial radiotelegraphy, Hams adopted it and made it their own!  Then there are those other codes that are inseparable from an Amateur Radio Operator’s vocabulary.  Some have become self-fulfilling prophecies like OM (old man – a general description of any man after adolescence), some have become reasons to have your wife place a pillow over your face while you sleep, like XYL (EX-young lady, for your wife).  Thankfully “88” (love and kisses) is a rarity, at least on the bands that I can hear!


Then you have the Ham equivalent of the “Supreme Grammarians” that rate you on the use of language and correct you at any opportunity.  The Ham version can spend hours over fights about whether “73’s” is an egregious error (“best regardses”), or just a harmless bit of emphasis. Most people that have strong opinions of Ham etiquette usually suggest that abbreviations and codes are for CW and phone should be in plain English.  Most people tend to agree that on FM with full quieting and no problems with “readability” codes are a bit of folksy nostalgia at best or “look how cool I am” at worse.  Does it take that much more time or is more confusing to say “I’m speaking from Brooklyn” than to say “the QTH is Brooklyn, here!” or to say “Yeah” instead of “QSL!” or “going clear” vs “QRT”.  Often people will discuss jammers while they are listening in by calling them “QRM” – what is this, code so the “children” won’t hear.  I think by now even jammers know that when Hams talk about “QRM” they are getting noticed.  The other day someone “keyed up” a Repeater but did not identify himself – rather than respond “Please identify yourself, this is KE2BOB” the guy said “QRZ? This is KE2BOB” – what was the point?  What about the guys that explode with “HI HI” when a normal chuckle will suffice?  It seems like the (not so) secret Ham handshake is using “73” (best regards) at the end of every conversation (like it’s somewhere in the FCC’s Part 97 requirements).


The real guys that grate the ears, are the ones that seem to be making believe they’re members of a Navy Seal Team on a crucial assault.  Perhaps they’ve been reading their EmComm manuals too much, but I regularly hear:


“KE2TIM, this is KE2JOE…” <long pause> “NEGATIVE response, QSY!”


Now, this isn’t even half decent English.  When you call a call sign and no one responds (and why can’t you just say “no response heard”) it is not a “negative response” in my book, at best it is a null response.  The closest thing to a negative response would be if KE2TIM responded by saying “this is KE2TIM, I am NOT on the air, QSL?”, but then the only Hams that might respond that way are safely installed in the nearest insane asylum.  I know that it is considered a “military thing” (or a military cliché thing).  Personally, I think someone saw it in a movie with some ersatz Navy Seals and thought it sounded real “cool”.  Most of us aren’t Navy Seals, or in active military positions.  We aren’t members of SWAT teams, and we are not any kind of so-called “first responders”.  We are Amateur Radio Operators that enthusiastically volunteer to help when professional communications systems fail.  Why some of us feel an uncontrollable urge to be a Professional Amateur (or is that an Amateur Professional – see I’ve got a uniform and badges with insignias all over the place and all that cool stuff- can I “play too”, can I, can I?).  The same guys will often replace single syllable words like “yes” or even “yeah” with the unnecessary longer 4 syllable version, “affirmative” (again this all occurs on Repeaters with full quieting “59” FM quality signals).  It could be worse – they could use “Associated Police Communications Officers (APCO)  10 Codes” – they have a great term for the word “no”, well actually it’s for that word “negative” again, 10-74, doesn’t it fall trippingly off the tongue?

And what’s with the guys that use “The Royal We”?  “We have been a Ham since 1958”, I recently heard.  Are “they” Conjoined Twins?  Some guys get REAL carried away… “From all of us, we wish you”  It would make some sense if during the QSO he mentioned anyone else anywhere near his shack, but it seems for this guy he’s just a group of one very plural guy!

But the “Pièce de résistance” are the guys that make up their own codes, neologisms like “Negatory”.  There’s a special circle in Hell for those creative guys…


73’s, 88’s, 10-42 and (what the hell) a bunch of Negatories to y’all,

The (Cranky) Editor


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