It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

your mission, should you choose to accept it

While flying home last night I read the ever-so-charming Cheaper By The Dozen, the memoirs written by two siblings (out of twelve!) about life in the 1920s with their father, an iconoclastic efficiency expert who ran the house like a business and found ways to go about life en masse. (Two films were made of the memoirs in the 1950s; the later Steve Martin remakes don't count because the only thing it has in common with the source material is the notion of a family with twelve kids.) During one part of the story, the father decides to teach his children Morse Code by painting dots and dashes all over the walls of their Nantucket summer home -- some of the messages provided clues to stashes of goodies, f'rinstance. (Some messages were red herrings, but hilariously so, like "There's no reward here, but go and run off anyway as if you found a clue, just to make everybody else curious.") Once the kids learned the code, they happily ran all over the place decoding the dots and dashes.

How they learned the code to begin with, though, is what inspired me. See, some people find Morse Code easy to learn. You just have to get the rhythm of the letters in your head and soon enough, apparently, it becomes nicely ingrained and you idly tap out messages at the dinner table or hear garbled letters in staccato rhythms. For some reason, however, the rhythm doesn't work for me, at least not thinking about it in terms of dits and dahs. I don't know. I hadn't been able to find a way to really get good at it. The way Frank Gilbreth taught his kids, however, used a mnemonic alphabet that really made me sit up and go "Ah ha!" Problem was, the book only gave four examples.

To begin with, I shall first show you an example of a supposedly "easy!" way to learn Morse Code that I found on this genius website. See how much you can read before your eyes glaze over.

The following table converts the letters of the alphabet to words on a first letter basis; e.g. "A" becomes "Ax," "B" becomes "Bear,"... and "X" becomes "Xray" .... The words are then formed into two columns depending upon whether the Morse Code equivalent of the first letter starts with a Dot/Dit (.) or a Dash/Dah (-). A letter always retains its Dit/Dah column identity (refer to table). For example, an "A" will always be a Dit, a "B" will always be a Dash,... and an "X" will always be a Dash.... A word can be translated into Dits and Dahs by spelling it and substituting Dits and Dahs for its component letters (e.g. A = A"x" = Dit "Dah"; B = Be"a"r = Dah Dit "Dit" Dit; and X = "X"ray = "Dah" Dit Dit Dah). Memorizing Morse Code letters then means memorizing these words and the columns to which they belong. An easy way of doing this follows the table.


DOTS (Dits)                                   DASHES (Dahs)

. -                                           - . . .
A x                                           B e a r

.                                             - . - .
E                                             C r o w

. . - .                                       - . .
F a c e                                       D i p

. . . .                                       - - .
H e a p                                       G n u   (African antelope) 

. .                                           - . -
I V  (IntraVenous)                            K i d

. - - -                                       - -
J o c k   (Athlete)                           M D  (Medical Doctor)

. - . .                                       - .
L o v e                                       N E  (NorthEastern)   

. - - .                                       - - -
P o t s                                       O d d

. - .                                         - - . -
R o w                                         Q t a m   (Electronics term)

. . .                                         -
S e a                                         T

. . -                                         - . . -
U F O  (See story)                            X r a y

. . . -                                       - . - -
V e s t                                       Y a n k    (Yankee)

. - -                                         - - . . 
W o k   (Oriental frypan)                     Z o e a    (Crab larva)

Word and column memorization is easy using the "link" memory method, which uses an associative technique, demonstrated below:

For Dits, picture clearly in your mind, exaggerating as much as possible, the following story or sequence of events:

An Ax smashes a large letter "E" into smithereens of little letter "E's" which fly and hit someone in the Face. The person falls in a Heap, is given an IV, a Jock visits, and Love develops. Once well, they climb into large Pots and Row out to Sea. There, they see a UFO (round and metallic Unidentified Flying Object). They catch it and use it first as an armored Vest and later as a Wok.

For Dahs, picture clearly in your mind the following events:

A Bear takes a Crow in his paws and eats it with Dip. Trotting by is a Gnu being ridden by a Kid who just got his MD from NorthEastern. "Odd," shouts the kid to the bear about the fare. "Why with a QTAM T, I could Xray that crow and see Yank Zoea inside."

Isn't that great? You have to memorize a dot or dash for each letter and then spell arbitrary and arcane words with that dot and dash code in order to divine the actual dot-dash code. Multi-layered memorization! Bleah!

Now here's how Frank Galbreth, efficiency expert, did it: He assigned a word (or word phrase) to each letter of the alphabet. The cadence of these words matched the dot-dash cadence of the letter. It may assume some things about regional pronunciation, but on the whole, I think it's a great method. For instance, the letter A (dot-DASH) was assigned the word about. a-BOUT. dot-DASH.

B (DASH-dot-dot-dot) was BOIS-ter-ous-ly. C (DASH-dot-DASH-dot) was CARE-less CHIL-dren. D (DASH-dot-dot) was DAN-ger-ous. Get it?

Unfortunately, that's all you're gonna get. The book only gives those four examples, and Google's been no help at all. We got 22 letters left, folks. Anybody want to be smart and flesh the rest of the alphabet out? The guidelines are to stay as alliterative as possible, of course, and please try not to use goddamn words like QTAM (which so doesn't count) or Zoea (we're delving into Desperate Crossword Puzzle Writer territory here. 25 down: FENCING SWORD.)

Owen and I decided on One Of Us (DASH-DASH-DASH) for O, even though Us isn't much of an o-word. R, for instance, could be ram-BUNC-tious. N can be NA-ked. Woo hoo, et al. Ok, so that's 7 down, 19 to go. Who else will rise to the challenge?
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