Posted by Sauerkraut on April 14, 2002
In Reply to: S.O.S. posted by R. Berg on April 10, 2002
: : : It may mean, "Save Our Ship"
: : : OOps I erased some stuff! Anyhow does it mean like the sorrows and heart aches in our lives? Save or Ship, is that what that could mean? Julie
: Not "save OR ship," which sounds like a mailroom employee asking the supervisor for instructions--"Am I to keep this or send it out?" "Save OUR ship." In Morse code, SOS is three dots, three dashes, three dots.
: From The American Heritage
: S O S
: 1. The letters represented by the radiotelegraphic signal . . . _ _ _ . . . , used internationally as a distress signal, particularly by ships and aircraft.
: 2. Any call or signal for help.
: So if you found the phrase "our SOS" in a context where Definition #2 makes sense, that's what it means. "Nobody responded to our SOS" means "Nobody helped us when we asked."
The letters SOS have been variously rendered as Save Our Ship as noted above, or sometimes Save Our Souls. It is likely that these verbalizations came after the fact. Early telegraphers chose the combination because it was easily sent and recognized by even non-telegraphers. No English words begin with "sos", thus making the combination even more unique.
Now for the next question: whence the modern voice radio usage of "May Day" as a distress call?