Could you please spell your name?

Martha, Anton, Heinrich, Friedrich, Otto, Ulrich, Zacharias: This is the way, I have to spell my name in German on the phone, so my interlocutor can spell it right – M A H F O U Z. What is the meaning of all this and where do these names come from?

The first official German spelling alphabet was introduced in 1890 in Prussia. The reason for this was the newly invented telephone. The Berlin telephone directory, however, still used numbers at that time in order to designate the letters: A = 1, B = 2, C = 3 and so forth. Words have only been in use since 1903. Since then, the spelling alphabet has been changed more than once, until it reached the form it has today. The overall goal is to avoid misunderstandings – for example in case of words and names that are rare or difficult to understand. Spelling alphabets in Switzerland and Austria differ from the ones used in Germany. It doesn’t matter in which country: Spelling alphabets help to understand the letters right. Some of them are quite similar in their pronunciation, for example T and D. There are different spelling alphabets for languages like French, Italian, English and Turkish.


Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL; Oula Mahfouz, 07.07.2020

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