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INFORMATION; SEASPEAK
September 23, 2009 3:11 AM   Subscribe

INFORMATION; SEASPEAK IS A RESTRICTED LANGUAGE USING SIMPLE STANDARD PHRASES FOR CLEAR COMMUNICATION AT SEA; OVER.
ADVICE; BEGIN EACH PHRASE WITH MESSAGE MARKERS SUCH AS INSTRUCTION, ADVICE, WARNING, INFORMATION, QUESTION, ANSWER, REQUEST, INTENTION; OVER.
QUESTION; ARE THERE RELATED LANGUAGES; OVER.
ANSWER; YES AIRSPEAK, TUNNELSPEAK; OUT.
posted by TheophileEscargot (79 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
not as simple as DogSpeak, which consists of: off, down, sit, come, no, gooddog, baddog, and my favorite "dropthedamncat"
posted by HuronBob at 3:19 AM on September 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Now could you use this as an input language for computer systems?
posted by Zarkonnen at 3:42 AM on September 23, 2009


QUESTION; IS CAPS-LOCK ACTUALLY REQUIRED; OVER.
posted by explosion at 3:47 AM on September 23, 2009 [11 favorites]


Commentary: The meatbag speaks without clarity. Detail your involvement or the master will splatter your organs all over the floor.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 3:52 AM on September 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


QUESTION; IS CAPS-LOCK ACTUALLY REQUIRED; OVER.

ANSWER: OF COURSE. DUH. OVER.
posted by Jofus at 3:54 AM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now could you use this as an input language for computer systems?

I think this was what Capitalization-Oriented BOilerplate Language (COBOL) was all about, and we all know how splendid it turned out to be.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:55 AM on September 23, 2009


This is cool. I was wondering recently if there were any non-ambiguous communication protocols similar to the NATO phonetic alphabet.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:56 AM on September 23, 2009


Information; Click for example of bad practice.
posted by patricio at 4:01 AM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Army Radio Operating Procedures ... scroll down for the "commands" like all after, out, over.

Pro-tip: It is bad form to say REPEAT (as in to reiterate the previous transmission) on an Army radio channel, proper terminology is SAY AGAIN. I was taught that "repeat" meant to repeat the previous artillery barrage as soon as possible.
posted by forforf at 4:02 AM on September 23, 2009 [14 favorites]


The funny thing is, even post telex, post fax, marine people *still* write emails like this.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:54 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The funny thing is, even post telex, post fax, marine people *still* write emails like this.

I know! I still get the occasional email where the author replaces "I" with EYE.
posted by dabug at 5:00 AM on September 23, 2009


Hmm. I wonder why the "Standard Marine Communication Phrases" use such elaborate, difficult-to-pronounce, and easy-to-misunderstand English words. Why not just stick to Basic English?

e.g. why say
“Unlit derelict vessel adrift in vicinity"

..when you can say

"A ship with no lights or persons on it is near me"

Then you've got a standard vocabulary that's easier to understand over a scratchy radio and can be recognized by most non-native English speakers.

Ah well. I suppose Basic English isn't pompous and military-sounding enough for the sorts of people who like to draft standards for radio comms.
posted by xthlc at 5:01 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then you've got a standard vocabulary that's easier to understand over a scratchy radio and can be recognized by most non-native English speakers.

I imagine that the vocabulary they need to learn is very small, restricted as it is to ship-and-sea-stuff.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 5:04 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I wonder why the "Standard Marine Communication Phrases" use such elaborate, difficult-to-pronounce, and easy-to-misunderstand English words.

I think it is because they considered simple, unambiguous syntax more important than a short vocabulary, to make parsing easier for non-native speakers and messy connections.

In "Unlit derelict vessel adrift", the sentence plumbing is really minimal: just list properties next to each other. You can now teach someone that knows no English at all that the word "derelict" over the radio always means "Very Bad Thing".

In "A ship with no lights or persons on it", the person listening needs to understand sentence structure: does "no" apply only to lights, or both lights and persons? What if radio static eats up the word "no" ? you now have the completely opposite meaning.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:24 AM on September 23, 2009 [18 favorites]


QUESTION; THIS IS BASICALLY A NETWORK PROTOCOL ENCODED IN HUMAN SPEECH. WITH TODAY'S TECHNOLOGY, COULDN'T IT BE PUSHED DOWN A LEVEL AND LET US NOT TALK LIKE MORONS? OVER.
ANSWER; TALKING LIKE MORONS IS HALF THE FUN OF BEING IN THE MILITARY. ALSO, SIMPLICITY AND RELIABILITY. OVER.
posted by DU at 5:33 AM on September 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


"A ship with no lights or persons on it is near me"

I don't think that would be easier to hear over a scratchy radio. Words with multiple syllables are easier to understand because of the pattern of speech, and the 'sea' vocabulary has more of a staccato sound and seems more specific. If a non-native English speaker doesn't understand, they can always ask.
posted by zennie at 5:35 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


ROCKALL, MALIN, FASTNET, LUNDY. SOUTHEAST VEERING SOUTHWEST 4 OR 5, OCCASIONALLY 6. MODERATE OR GOOD.
posted by Flashman at 6:03 AM on September 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Hmm. I wonder why the "Standard Marine Communication Phrases" use such elaborate, difficult-to-pronounce, and easy-to-misunderstand English words.

I think for the same reasons that MeFites use terms like "SLYT," instead of a more friendly and easy-to-understand note like "Warning: link goes to a YouTube video. You may not wish to play at work." A combination of clarity, conciseness, and (importantly) tradition. A lot of these phrases probably sounded less pompous 50+ years ago.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:14 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


from 4th FPP link (Standard Marine Communication Phrases):

I AM UNDER ATTACK OF PIRATES

"of" pirates?
posted by stbalbach at 6:15 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


DEKLURASHUN; 1ST WE GOT ELBOWZ; OVUR
WARNING; NOW WEE CAN TIPE; PEECE OUT
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:20 AM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


REQUEST: AT CAKESHOP NOW. I AM FAST IN ICING. I REQUIRE ASSISTANCE. OVER.

REQUEST: FELL INTO CESS PIT. I AM STINKING. PLEASE PROCEED TO MY ASSISTANCE. WHAT IS YOUR ETA AT OUR DISTRESS POSITION? OVER.

INFORMATION: ENCOUNTERED MINI BAR. I HAVE DEVELOPED STABILITY PROBLEMS. NAP TIME ON HORIZON. OVER.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:25 AM on September 23, 2009 [11 favorites]


e.g. why say
“Unlit derelict vessel adrift in vicinity"

..when you can say

"A ship with no lights or persons on it is near me"


That seems simpler to you: as a native english speaker and a landlubber. "Derelict" is probably not a word that you use every day so you think that a descriptive phrase is simpler. To a seaman, "derelict" has a very particular meaning (actually it has a legal meaning too), and to a non-native speaker, the single word "derelict" is easier to learn than any phrase.
Phrases have grammar to learn, words are nicely atomic.
posted by atrazine at 6:35 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a tiny bit of emergency radio training and the first thing they taught was that radio frequencies are shared among different services and municipalities and the radio signal of course transmits freely. There is a protocol to ensure that you get heard by the right people and to let the people that don't need to be hearing what you have to say can safely ignore you.

If, Tara forfend, you ever have to use a radio in an emergency:
State which locality if applicable. State which agency. Twice in that order.
Identify yourself appropriately and tell them you have an emergency.
Depending on the urgency wait and repeat until you get a response. If you don't get a response then give a brief description of your location and emergency, repeating as the situation allows. They may be able to hear you despite you not being able to hear them.

Basically it's the pattern you've heard the radio person on every fire or cop show ever done. I hate that the thought of speaking into a radio like that somehow makes me feel slightly embarrassed.
posted by vapidave at 6:43 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


QUESTION; WHAT IS UP WITH THE SEMICOLONS; OVER
INFORMATION; I HATE SEMICOLONS, IN ENGLISH OR IN CODE (DERELICT LANGUAGES LIKE JAVA, AND OBJECTIVE C CAN DERELICT MY BALLS); OVER
posted by zpousman at 6:48 AM on September 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


WARNING: WE ARE SINKING!
FRAGE: VAT ARE YOU SZINKING?; OVAR
posted by samsara at 6:49 AM on September 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


Useful when communicating over a poor voice connection, the November Alpha Tango Oscar Phoentic Alphabet.

Also, the Pilot/Controller Glossary.
posted by exogenous at 6:51 AM on September 23, 2009


DERELICT LANGUAGES LIKE JAVA
WARNING:TROLL; OVER
posted by sporb at 6:57 AM on September 23, 2009


>I AM UNDER ATTACK OF PIRATES

>"of" pirates?


Yup, it's an "attack of pirates". Like a gaggle of geese, or a murder of crows.
posted by surenoproblem at 7:02 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I nominate today as International Seaspeak Day. All the fun of Caps Lock Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day combined, but then quashed by bureaucracy.
posted by 445supermag at 7:03 AM on September 23, 2009 [13 favorites]


Consarn. I thought this was gonna be about someone having unearthed a SEAORG memo. This is all very charming, but not near to as fun as a good LRH-LOLing.

Over.
posted by everichon at 7:10 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you look at the transcript from when the airliner ditched in the Hudson river, Captain Sullenberger makes good use of the term "Unable":
2028:31 [LaGuardia ATC] "Alright, Cactus 1549, it's going to be left traffic to runway three one."
2028:34 [Sullenberger] "Unable."
I find this word to be very useful in conversations with my wife: "Honey, isn't it your turn to do the dishes?" "Unable."
posted by exogenous at 7:13 AM on September 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


I find this word to be very useful in conversations with my wife: "Honey, isn't it your turn to do the dishes?" "Unable."

For this, I prefer to use "unsubscribe". It indicates both "unable" and that future communications on this channel should be terminated.
posted by DU at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2009 [13 favorites]


TL;DR
posted by PenDevil at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I thought this was gonna be about someone having unearthed a SEAORG memo.

Me, too. Seaspeak works better if you dress your messengers in hot pants and halter tops, then train them to speak in your own voice.
posted by rokusan at 7:29 AM on September 23, 2009


I AM UNDER ATTACK OF PIRATES
"of" pirates?
Yup, it's an "attack of pirates". Like a gaggle of geese, or a murder of crows.


So they're stackable, these pirates? Must be awkward being under a whole gaggle of them at once.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:36 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


A ship with no lights or persons on it is near me

There is also a technical distinction between "boat" and "ship" which makes "vessel" more appropriate. "Unlit" also has a distinct meaning that navigational lights are inoperative. And of course, "near me" is right out because the spotted hazard may be a few kilometers away and no one else is going to know your position anyway. Which is why the phrase concludes with the position of the hazard and the time it was spotted. And "adrift" is an important word that is necessary to distinguish a potentially moving hazard from one that is anchored, stuck on a reef, or locked in ice.

Sure, "Unlit derelict vessel adrift in vicinity (of ... spotted at ...)" is loaded with jargon, but it's jargon that presumably you could expect a commercial sailor to know.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:42 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Frank Herbert camed up with something like this in Dune. Harkonnen battle language wasn't too far fetched after all.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 7:43 AM on September 23, 2009


Commentary: The meatbag speaks without clarity. Detail your involvement or the master will splatter your organs all over the floor.

Disclosure: I rushed into this thread, hoping to be the first to drop this reference; it appears I arrived too late. May I perform an atonement murder, master?
posted by jake at 7:45 AM on September 23, 2009


TALKING LIKE MORONS IS HALF THE FUN OF BEING IN THE MILITARY

That and in firefights and other extreme situations where fear and adrenaline tend to block out all but hindbrain and instinctive functions, it's helpful to have an ingrained and easily transmittable lightweight system of communication. Frilly language = wasted time that could mean death.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:45 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I AM SINKING. PLEASE PROCEED TO MY ASSISTANCE.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:52 AM on September 23, 2009


Kronos_to_Earth: Well, it probably wasn't original to Herbert. Most of the key players in WWII had their own codebooks of military terms translated into innocuous phrases. The Navajo code talkers had their own military code that was more complex than just translating battle orders into Dine and back again, although it was pretty superficial cryptographically-speaking, and dependent on the obscurity of the language.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:56 AM on September 23, 2009


REQUEST; I REQUIRE STRONG CURRY
INFORMATION: I AM ON FIRE AFTER EXPLOSION IN HOLD
posted by patricio at 7:58 AM on September 23, 2009


UNWANTED AROUSAL SITUATION IMMINENT ; NIPPLE HARDENING EXTANT ; COMMENCING OPERATION UNABLE BONER ; VISUALIZING UNSEXY THOUGHTS ; TROUSER TENT AVERTED
posted by lalochezia at 8:06 AM on September 23, 2009


I'm a surface warfare officer in the Navy, and though we have some different terms for the military side of things, much of our seamanship information over the Bridge to Bridge radio is like this. As others have mentioned, the staccato atomic words are much easier both for a non-English speaker to look up in a nautical dictionary and to be understood over a scratchy radio. While a word like "no" might sound like a thousand things, the chances of another nautical word to come out of "derelict" are quite a bit lower. The same reason that we don't use "increase" or "decrease" (they sound too much the alike), but just end up using "raise" and "lower". Plus, like any professional vocabulary, it ensures that words have as few double meanings as possible.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:17 AM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I AM SINKING. PLEASE PROCEED TO MY ASSISTANCE.

*Grabs black t-shirt, white spray paint, stencils*
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on September 23, 2009


I'm learning how to fly right now, basic private pilot license. The radio is intimidating. Partly because it's a social thing and I don't want to look like an idiot. Also because it's got its own language and culture. And because I'm fucking busy in the cockpit trying to manage a hundred other things, last thing I need is having to figure out if that call is for me or how I should respond.

My first ever radio call, my instructor taught me my first airspeak after I flubbed the readback. When a pilot says "Roger", that's shorthand for "I have no idea what you just said."
posted by Nelson at 8:31 AM on September 23, 2009


THIS IS FREE TRADER BEOWULF, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:37 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been looking at automated speech algorithms recently and this is interesting, because the task of recognizing a constrained grammar (digits, yes/no, etc) is orders of magnitude easier for a computer than recognizing free-form speech. Assuming we are just wet, salty computers, the same rules should apply to us.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:48 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


INFORMATION; THE PLUMS IN MESS HAVE BEEN CONSUMED, BREAKFAST HAS BEEN DISABLED.
REQUEST; FORGIVENESS
INFORMATION; SUBJECT WAS SWEET, COLD. OUT.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2009 [59 favorites]


and I spent so much time when a kid in the Sea Scouts learning semaphore.
posted by Postroad at 8:55 AM on September 23, 2009


lol, I'm with jake on this issue.
posted by Xany at 9:04 AM on September 23, 2009


Heh, for some reason this reminds of the emails I'd receive from our offshore programmers.

REQUEST: PLEASE KINDLY DO THE NEEDFUL AND FORWARD YOUR REQUIREMENTS
posted by sideshow at 9:16 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


REQUEST: MY POKEMONS. LET ME SHOW YOU THEM

INFORMATION: AH'M IN YOUR WATER, SAILING YOUR BOATS
posted by Naberius at 9:23 AM on September 23, 2009


Heh, for some reason this reminds of the emails I'd receive from our offshore programmers.

Ya, or those forum questions that never get answered...
posted by sporb at 9:24 AM on September 23, 2009


1f2frfbf: You're my hero.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:28 AM on September 23, 2009


e.g. why say
A) “Unlit derelict vessel adrift in vicinity"

..when you can say

B) "A ship with no lights or persons on it is near me"


Because, in terms of actual syntax and grammar and in spite of the vocabulary, sentence "A" is much more simple and easy to understand than sentence "B"; sentence "A" is governed by fewer and more simple rules.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2009


QUESTION: WHAT BEAR IS BEST?
posted by wayofthedodo at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2009


INFORMATION; CLOCKS ARE DISABLED. RADIO IS DISABLED. DOG IS SILENCED IN MESS. INSTRUMENTS STOWED. CARGO COFFIN IS ON DECK. MUSTER CREW.

REQUEST; SAR AEROPLANES WITH FLARES. RESCUE ANIMALS AND POLICE INTERVENTION ARE REQUIRED.

INFORMATION; PRESENT POSITION UNKNOWN. COMPASS IS DISABLED. LOCAL DATE IS UNKNOWN. LOCAL TIME IS UNKNOWN. LOVE DISABLED AND ADRIFT.

INFORMATION; STARS, MOON AND SUN ARE UNLIT AND STOWED. OCEAN IS EVAPORATED. WOODS ARE SWEPT AND STOWED. ASSISTANCE IS NOT REQUIRED. CANCEL SAR. SHIP IS ADRIFT AND POSITION IS UNKNOWN. OUT.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:54 AM on September 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Good old International Codes. They'd been devised eighty years before, but the men in those days had really thought hard about the kind of perils that might possibly be encountered on the deep.

He picked up his pen and wrote down: "XXXV QVVX."

Translated, it meant: "Have found Lost Continent of Atlantis. High Priest had just won quoits contest."
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:00 AM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


lalochezia: "UNWANTED AROUSAL SITUATION IMMINENT ; NIPPLE HARDENING EXTANT ; COMMENCING OPERATION UNABLE BONER ; VISUALIZING UNSEXY THOUGHTS ; TROUSER TENT AVERTED"

INFORMATION: TOO MUCH.



Oh, and just as addition to AIRSPEAK: everyone interested in such things needs to check out the wiki page on multiservice tactical brevity codes. It's a bit like SEASPEAK with the balls hanging out.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 10:34 AM on September 23, 2009


Frilly language = wasted time that could mean death.

I like frilly language.
posted by Faze at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2009


WHAT YOU SAY?
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:09 AM on September 23, 2009


WHAT YOU SAY?

Should really be:

REQUEST: WHAT YOU SAY?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:39 AM on September 23, 2009


INFORMATION; SOMEONE SET UP US THE BOMB
posted by unSane at 11:56 AM on September 23, 2009


A language without double entendre, how dull.
posted by anthill at 11:58 AM on September 23, 2009


REQUEST: ARE YOU A GOER?
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Looks like the way the Daleks talk.
posted by paddbear at 12:56 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


IN PURSUIT OF SPEEDING INDIVIDUAL DRIVING A RED ... CAR. LICENSE NUMBER EGGPLANT XERXES CRIMINY OVERBITE NARWHAL.
posted by zippy at 1:28 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


A language without double entendre, how dull.

QUESTION; ARE YOU PUMPING?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:50 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've got the IMO SMCP guide here, and it looks like the appropriate thing to say is

I am under attack by pirates

A1/1.1.8.1
posted by avocet at 2:23 PM on September 23, 2009


QUESTION; HOW IS BABBY FORMED; OVER.
posted by greekphilosophy at 2:24 PM on September 23, 2009


REQUEST; INFORM MY WIFE OF MY GREAT AFFECTION; OVER

INFORMATION; SHE KNOWS; OVER

WARNING; CIRCUIT APPEARS DEAD; UNKNOWN CONTINGENCY; REQUESTING CONFIRMATION OF RECIEPT; OVER
posted by potch at 4:07 PM on September 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


INFORMATION: ALL YOUR YOUR BASE
posted by ...possums at 4:34 PM on September 23, 2009


INTENTION: TODAY, PARTS NAMING; YESTERDAY, PARTS CLEANING; TOMORROW, PARTS AFTER FIRING; OVER.
INFORMATION: JAPONICA GLISTENS LIKE CORAL; OVER.

INFORMATION: LOWER SLING SWIVEL; UPPER SLING SWIVEL; PILING SWIVEL; OVER.
ADVICE: HAVE NOT GOT PILING SWIVEL; OVER.
INFORMATION: BRANCHES HOLD ELOQUENT GESTURES; OVER.

INFORMATION: SAFETY-CATCH; OVER.
WARNING: DO NOT USE FINGER; OVER.
INFORMATION: BLOSSOMS ARE FRAGILE; OVER.

INFORMATION: BOLT; OVER.
INSTRUCTION: EASE THE SPRING; OVER.
WARNING: EARLY BEES ASSAULTING; OVER.

INFORMATION: BOLT; BREECH; COCKING-PIECE; POINT OF BALANCE; OVER.
ADVICE: HAVE NOT GOT POINT OF BALANCE; OVER.
INTENTION: EASING THE SPRING; OVER.
INFORMATION: ALMOND BLOSSOM; OUT.
posted by tellurian at 7:42 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


not as simple as DogSpeak

That may be why my dog thinks his name is Mussiegeddown.
posted by rubah at 9:21 PM on September 23, 2009


For this, I prefer to use "unsubscribe". It indicates both "unable" and that future communications on this channel should be terminated.

INFORMATION; YOUR IDEAS ARE INTRIGUING; OVER
REQUEST; SUBSCRIBE TO YOUR NEWSLETTER; OVER
posted by armage at 12:59 AM on September 24, 2009


INFORMATION: WORDWANG!
posted by unregistered_animagus at 6:58 AM on September 24, 2009


SOS SOS CQD CQD MGY
posted by Harry at 8:11 AM on September 24, 2009


Sierra! Alfa! Foxtrot! Echo! Tango! Yankee! Dance!
posted by Pronoiac at 11:41 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


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