Wednesday, May 1, 2013

101 Morse Code for May Day . . . _ _ _ . . .

Today we honor Morse Code.  Why today?  When people in trouble used to call out for help, it was actually a phonetic version of "M'aidez," which meant "Help me!" in French, the common international language of the 19th century. "May Day" became a phrase understood everywhere. 

Morse Code was a vital long-distance alphabet, from its introduction in 1837 until 1997 when it went out of official use.  The dots and dashes that substituted for the May Day call make use of the code's most distinctive letters, S O S.  It was understood around the world.  The first of May seems like a good day to feature it.    

Maybe because I'm married to a former ham radio operator who seems to have Morse Code in his DNA,  I love the way Morse Code looks.  Even though there's a typo in the title.    

The alphabet at left is based on calligraphic dots and dashes. They touch each other, rather than being separated by the width of one dot as Morse rules require, and can be used for decoration and subtle double meanings. 
Here at right is a Morse alphabet in brush strokes, a design by scribe Rick Cusick, which I included on page 178 of Learn World Calligraphy.

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