Regular readers know that I don’t proofread my posts before hitting publish. I could definitely do better here. I’m not concerned with ‘proper usage’ but I do believe the most important thing in communication is understanding. Sometimes I won’t write complete sentences, I’ll write run-on sentences, I write the way that I speak. When a typo or slipping the wrong word into a sentence gets in the way of understanding that’s actually a problem. Fortunately, I crowdsource my editing.. in the form of only sometimes friendly contributions to the comments section. Thank you all!
I realize my belief that what matters is understanding makes me a hypocrite in at least one dimension: I cannot stand non-standard words that represent letters of the alphabet.
I do realize that there are a few different versions that are ostensibly correct, it doesn’t do any good to use Delta for D in air traffic control around Atlanta. And correct shouldn’t matter to me.
I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong in writing, that the relevant question is whether or not the person writing is communicating in a way that they are understood by their intended audience. I believe grammar and spelling don’t matter for their own sake.
Yet I have an irrational emotional reaction that I just. can’t. control. with airline reservations agents who use the zulu alphabet incorrectly.
I talk to a lot of reservations agents. A lot of them. And I’m religious about getting record locators as early in the conversation as possible.
Whenever I think a record has been created, and definitely before an agent puts me on hold if they have to talk to their rate desk to price taxes on an award ticket or otherwise set up a reservation for ticketing, I ask them for the record locator — who knows what’ll happen after I get placed on hold, a call could drop and it would be a real pain to try to find an unticketed reservation on partner airlines without it.
Almost invariably, agents will spell out confirmation numbers using some variation on the zulu alphabet (“A Alpha, B Bravo, C Charlie” etc).
And almost invariably they will use the ‘wrong words’. And I can’t help but repeat back to them using different words.
Agent: Unicycle Jennifer Kevin Baker Charlie Zoo
Gary: Let me repeat the confirmation back to you, Uniform Juliet Kilo Bravo Charlie Zulu?
Agent: Yes, that’s correct.
Does this make me a jerk? I don’t really mean to be correcting them but I don’t really remember the words they attached to specific letters so I can’t really parrot those back. The ‘correct’ words as I understand them that are associated with each letter are ingrained in my brain, so I use them.
I was once given a record locator: FYZUJT
“Frank, Yellow, Zebra, Unicorn, Jellybean, Trotsky.”
Jellybean Trotsky…? Whisky Tango Foxtrot?!
So am I a hypocrite for being bothered by this, and am I a jerk for using a standard alphabet when I read back record locators?